Jury Dismissed for the Day at Stevens Trial.

22 10 2008

The jury in the Senator Ted Stevens corruption trial has left for the day. (door closing noise)

They were supposed to leave at 4:45pm, but asked permission to leave early.

The jury returned to Sullivan’s court at 4:25 p.m. Sullivan said they had sent a note.

Paraphrasing, he said jurors wanted to leave early. “Kind of stressful right now – we need a minute of clarity right now.”

No problem, Sullivan said. “Of course I will let you go.”

What does this mean? I was expecting a request for more dry erase markers, or a question about an electrical invoice, or something else. But “Can we go early because we’re stressed out?” I didn’t see that one.

So, what do you think?


Ted Stevens Takes the Stand

18 10 2008


Ted Stevens took the stand.  He was reminded by Judge Emmett Sullivan that he didn’t have to take the stand, but Stevens said, it was “an honor and a duty.”  Well, it wasn’t a duty (the whole point of not having to do it), but he did it anyway.  After extensive questioning by his own defense team, who asked about his life and times, and great moments in his political career, it was the prosecution’s turn.

Ted tried to convince the  jury that either:

a) he had no idea what was going on because his wife handles everything “inside the teepee”

b) he knew what was going on, but had no power to stop being gifted against his will

c) Lies, I tell you!  It’s all lies!

Baited with rapid-fire challenges to his integrity, honesty and credibility, Stevens mainly answered “yes” or “no” before a jury that will soon be judging him, and keeping to his story that he didn’t believe he received any gifts from the oil-field service company Veco or its chairman, Bill Allen.

Earlier Friday, questioned by his own attorney, Stevens dismissed earlier testimony from Allen that the senator once acknowledged owing the Veco boss money for the work. He called what Allen said in court “an absolute lie.”

By late Friday afternoon, jurors had gotten a taste of the testy 84-year-old senator, who once called himself “the meanest man in town.”

“Aren’t these e-mails really what you’re doing, you’re covering your bottom?” asked Brenda Morris, the lead Justice Department prosecutor on his case, asking Stevens about how he handled a 2004 press inquiry into who paid for his renovations. The question referred back to the most memorable line of the trial, when Allen testified Oct. 1 that Stevens was just “covering his ass” in asking for invoices he had no intention of paying.

“My bottom wasn’t bare,” Stevens snapped back at Morris.

If the jury, like me, was taken off-guard with an unexpected and unwanted mental image of Ted Stevens’ “bottom”, it can’t be good for the senior Senator.

The growing number of odd gifts, with Stevens explanation in parentheses has grown to include a metal staircase (ugly, didn’t want), giant black furniture (ugly, didn’t want, had cigarette burns), a Viking gas grill (fire hazard), and a massage chair (just borrowed it for seven years…wasn’t really a ‘gift’), and Christmas tree lights (didn’t want the fancy rope lights put up, wanted the ones in the garage that he bought second-hand).

Stevens bristled at times during the cross-examination, having to wait for a question before he could reply. Sometimes the judge intervened. Stevens showed his disdain for Morris’ questions by occasionally responding with inquiries of his own.

“I think you better rephrase your question, your question is tautological,” he lectured Morris in response to a question about renovations to his deck.

And for a brief moment, Stevens and Morris traded roles.

Morris said he knew he was getting gifts when he sought a bill.

“If it’s a gift, why did I ask for a bill?” said Stevens, redirecting the question to Morris.

“To cover your butt,” she replied.

“That wasn’t fair, ma’am,” Stevens said.

Dennis Zaki of The Alaska Report who was at the trial, drops tantalizing clues that the testimony and attitude of Catherine Stevens, and Ted himself, didn’t go over well with the jury.  Check the Alaska Report later today for Dennis’ update….but he says “Ted’s toast!”

Prosecution Wraps it Up in Senator Ted Stevens’ Trial

9 10 2008

The final witness for the prosecution took the stand this morning in the Ted Stevens corruption trial.  The judge allowed prosecutors to call David Anderson, welder, and nephew of former Veco CEO Bill Allen,  He supervised work on Stevens’ chalet.  Stevens is accused of accepting more than $200,000 in renovations on his Girdwood, Alaska residence from Allen, and failing to disclose it on his Senate Financial Disclosure forms.

Anderson detailed the work he and Williams did on the Stevens home, including jacking it up to add a bottom story.

“It took a couple of weeks,” Anderson said. “One of the problems with Girdwood is you got to buy your materials from Anchorage and bring your materials from anchorage. So it’s time consuming for sure.”

Anderson’s testimony delayed the defense case, meaning his lawyers won’t be able to call one of their star witnesses until Friday or later: former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

During this trial, it seems like the prosecution is doing everything possible to tick off the judge.  Sending witnesses home to Alaska without notice, withholding evidence favorable to the defense….  Alaskans have seen plenty of lawmakers get taken down by the FBI in the last two years, and we are used to  a swift kill from the feds. It’s usually clean, decisive and devastating.   We know they can do it…but this one feels different. 

A team of bloggers is there, with an interesting quirky take on all the stuff you won’t hear from the MSM, plus the ins and outs of the prosecutions’ “oops” moments throughout the trial.  Describing Allen’s welding nephew:

His Jack Nicholson baritone picked up noticeably when the prosecutor’s questions turned to the nitty gritty of construction. Everyone else in the room, on the other hand, was falling asleep, doing crossword puzzles, sneaking emails on their Blackberries.

He used terms like roust-a-bout, cribbing and skinning the walls. At one point he even told a joke, that no one else got: “We had a compactor rodeo!” he said, laughing uproariously. He’d been talking about compacting the dirt under the foundation of the garage.

Stevens’ support in Alaska is still huge, despite the first viable challenge to his seat from Democratic opponent Mark Begich.  The outcome of the election may very well hinge on the outcome of the trial.

The defense will start off with their first witness, long-time Stevens friend and supporter Senator Daniel Inouye (D) from Hawaii.

Interestingly, Cliff Groh’s blog “Alaska Political Corruption” which was also featuring blogging from the Stevens trial, and that I featured a few posts ago, has mysteriously vanished…

UPDATE: Looks like the link was bad or updated….HERE it is.  Good.

Stevens Trial Steams On…and a New Blogger is There.

6 10 2008

A new man has pinched his nose and jumped into the shark-infested waters of Alaska political blogging. I’d like to welcome Cliff Groh to the pool. Groh is in Washington D.C. now, blogging about the Ted Stevens trial. His history with Stevens is long, and his knowledge of Alaskan politics is extensive. He is working on a book about the current political corruption scandal uncovered by federal investigation. He understands the dynamics of corruption. He’s a straight shooter.

The name of his blog? Alaska Political Corruption. It’s not catchy or clever, but it gets the point across, and Groh is good at getting the point across. I’m adding it to my blogroll, and will be checking it throughout the trial. Here’s his assessment of the two legal teams.

Not counting the defendant himself, there were 12 people sitting at the defense table or at the bench behind at a hearing last week.

The prosecution also had approximately a dozen people at that hearing.

This massive investment on behalf of Ted Stevens is a far cry from what we saw in the three trials of Alaska state legislators occurring in Anchorage last year. In each of those public corruption cases tried in Alaska, the defendant was outgunned so badly it was embarrassing. It was like a freight train was roaring down the tracks on one man.

This case sets up very differently. With all of the resources expended on Stevens’ defense, this trial is more like two freight trains colliding—and it’s not clear which train will ultimately get the worse of it.

All this fine legal work for Ted Stevens doesn’t come cheap. It’s entirely possible that this defense is costing $175,000 per week during the trial, and that estimate could be substantially low.

$175,000 a week? You could buy a lot of sled dogs, fish sculptures, massage chairs, barbeque grills, generators and home renovations for that chunk of change!

Stevens Will Stand Trial.

10 09 2008

Ted Stevens on Primary Night 2008 in Alaska

Anchorage Mayor and Democratic Senate Candidate Mark Begich

Looks like the best efforts of Ted Stevens’ attorneys came up short. They tried to get his ongoing corruption case thrown out on the grounds that it was unconstitutional, and that some of the charges exceeded the statute of limitations. ‘No dice’, sayeth Judge Emmett Sullivan.

Stevens was charged on seven felony counts for accepting home renovations and gifts in excess of $250,000 from the oil services company Veco, and failing to report them on his senate financial disclosure forms. In 2006, to the shock of Alaskans, the FBI raided Stevens home in Girdwood, a small town south of Anchorage. There were guys in baseball caps and mirrored sunglasses crawling all over the house, which Stevens refers to as ‘the chalet’. They took pictures of the roof, the deck, the gutters, electrical outlets,  the ginormous Viking barbeque grill…you name it. And that was just the outside. Nobody could figure out what on earth was going on.

Turns out that Bill Allen, head of Veco, was handling all the renovations. What a pal.  Stevens, who said that he paid every bill “that was sent to him”, failed to disclose all he didn’t pay for. We have recently learned about other ‘gifts’ he failed to disclose – among these, a new SUV for his daughter, a massage chair, and even a sled dog worth $1000. Yes, we Alaskans have to add a little ‘local color’ to our political scandals.

So, while many Alaskans love and revere Stevens, who has been our senator since 1968, many others think it’s time for him to bow out gracefully. Others think it’s time for him to check in at the grey-bar hotel. There is nobody that doesn’t have an opinion about Stevens.  And whether you love him or hate him, it will seem strange when he is no longer the Senior Senator from Alaska.

Stevens easily beat a flock of competitors in the recent Alaska Republican primary. Despite smelling blood in the water, none of these challengers were even able to come close to toppling this Alaskan icon we know as “Uncle Ted”, and the longest sitting Republican member of the Senate.

But, Stevens, for some inexplicable reason, seems to be benefiting from the recent Palin phenomenon. Palin’s approval ratings have remained virtually unchanged, hovering around the 80% mark both before and after her nomination. (They had dipped to 67% after the Troopergate scandal broke, and then rebounded) However, Stevens, who had trailed the Democratic challenger Anchorage mayor Mark Begich by 13 points in late July, has seen his numbers surge to within 2 points of the challenger – a statistical dead heat.  It’s suddenly a horse race.

So, is it possible that Stevens will actually be re-elected, despite his indictment? Yes. He did, after all, win his primary after he was indicted. Why? I wish I could tell you. The only rationale I have heard is that Stevens has ‘done a lot for Alaska’. This is true. He has funneled mega-doses of federal money into the state, particularly as Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. He has been a bulldog. He even gave that Bridge to Nowhere thing a pretty good shot (with the full support of Gov. Palin, I might add).

MARK BEGICH, Anchorage’s hugely popular mayor, will give him a run for his money in the senate race, though. He is smart, young (46 compared to Stevens 84), and full of energy. He’s progressive (by Alaska standards) which means he is against No Child Left Behind, for drilling in the ANWR, pro-alternative energy, acknowledges climate change, is pro-health care reform, for closing loopholes in the new ethics reform bill, and getting troops home from Iraq.

It was looking like Begich had the whole thing sealed, until this latest Palin bounce, that strangely didn’t affect Palin’s numbers in the state at all. 

But first things first…Stevens’ jury selection will begin on September 22nd.  You know, if it weren’t for this Stevens trial, we’d be sooo bored with politics up here.

Stevens Shoots Self in Foot. ‘Keep it Up,’ Think Dems.

5 08 2008

There’s some major faulty logic going on in the Stevens campaign. Now back in the state, Ted Stevens did the whole dog & pony show at his campaign headquarters holding a rally, where he was reported by ADN to have been in the presence of a “large, supportive crowd”. He also had quite a spectacle when he was  he was escorted by a parade of bikers. At least Ted didn’t volunteer his wife Catherine to participate in a topless biker beauty contest like McCain did with Cindy.  (There are no words.)

And…Stevens wants his trial to be moved from D.C. to Alaska because sure…we’re impartial here, right? Don’t pay any attention to the screaming crowd at the airport named for him, Justice Department. Nothing to see here…

It’s not like he’s got anything to worry about in the primary. The most recent post-indictment poll indicated there’s really no competition. So why the effort to gather the troops and get that front page story and photos on the Anchorage Daily News? Seems to me like the more balloons and confetti, the less the chances of Stevens getting his way with the trial relocation.

Not that I’m complaining. Just felt a need to state the obvious.