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’ Trial to be Held in D.C.

20 08 2008

No surprise. Judge Emmett Sullivan today ruled that Ted Stevens will have to stand trial in D.C. where he allegedly committed the seven felonies for which he is accused.

Stevens’ lawyer Brendan Sullivan (another Sullivan) bloviated for over an hour, explaining how witnesses will be inconvenienced, and Stevens’ campaign time will be impinged, etc. It took Judge Sullivan all of about 5 minutes to say no dice.

Sullivan the judge stated several times that video testimony and cross-examination of witnesses will be allowed, and reminded Sullivan the attorney that the court had already bent over backwards to accommodate Stevens’ request for a speedy trial. In addition, the ‘work week’ of the trial may be cut to four days, allowing Stevens to fly home for long weekends of campaigning.

So, the good news for us (bad news for Stevens) is that Stevens may actually get a fair trial. The bad news for us, of course, is no big media extravaganza in Alaska. That’s OK. We should be willing to forgo the festivities for the sake of justice (even though it’s just no fun).

Stevens & Cowdery Join ‘Republican Offenders’

20 08 2008
Image from Republican Offenders

Image from Republican Offenders

For those of you who, like me, have anxiously been awaiting the latest update of Republican Offenders, wait no more.  So inundated they were with Republican indictments lately, it took longer than usual.  The site now reflects Alaska’s latest two contributions:  Senator Ted “I am innocent” Stevens, and John “I am innocent” Cowdery.  They join Pete “I am innocent” Kott, Vic “I am innocent” Kohring…etc.

More Preemptive Sleuthing – This Time By Stevens.

17 08 2008

The latest news nugget released by the FBI in the Ted Stevens case is rather interesting…

Apparently they’ve got a phone call recorded between Senator S and “Person A” that sounds a little suspicious. The court document reads:

By mid-May 2007, Stevens learned that Person A had been subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury in D.C. On May 17, 2007, Stevens sent Person A two emails that discussed Person A’s upcoming grand jury testimony. In the first email, Stevens told Person A that “I hope we can work something out to make sure you aren’t led astray on this occasion.” 

In the second, Stevens was more explicit: “don’t answer questions you don’t KNOW the answers to.”

“Work something out?”  Hmmmm….  Maybe he’s just ‘pulling a Palin’, you know, a little pre-emptive sleuthing and groundwork, just to get the lay of the land before the trial.  That’s OK, right?  Because if you know what they’re going to find, you can prepare.  It’s only fair…

It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if more stuff like this doesn’t come to light.  You can fit a LOT in 67,000 pieces of paper, plus audio and video.  And judges tend not to like that sort of thing.

Stevens’ attorneys after requesting a speedy trial, are already singing the blues because now they don’t have time to review all the evidence and prepare and adequate defense in time for the speedy trial they requested.  What’s that old saying?  Be careful what you wish for.

Stevens Trial “Fast But Fair”…Must Mean It’s Going to D.C.

7 08 2008

                        Today U.S. District Court Judge Emmett Sullivan, who is overseeing the Ted Stevens case said “It’s going to be fair. Let me emphasize that. Iit’s going to be fast, but it’s going to be fair.”  My take on that?  OK, Ted…you’ll get your special fast-track September 24th trial date, but ain’t no way it’s moving to Alaska.

Despite the fact that there is really no possibility of a fair trial in Alaska, I feel a little pang.  What a crazy circus THAT would be!  Popcorn worthy for sure.  But I think we’ll have to settle for observing from afar.

And here’s the Stevens quote of the week from the Ketchikan Daily News:

“This is an indictment for failure to disclose gifts that are controversial in terms of whether they were or were not gifts. It’s not bribery; it’s not some corruption; it’s not some extreme felony.”

“Not some extreme felony”?  So…it’s just a little teensy-weensy felony?  An itty-bitty felony.  No biggie.  We can just overlook it because after all, look what he’s done for the state, he’s a World War II vet, he’s dedicated his life to serving the people, he’s really old, he’s given us the airport…we’ve heard it all before.

And besides, just because someone gives you something for free that’s worth $250,000 that you really want, doesn’t necessarily make it a ‘gift’.  It could be….er….a coincidence, or a present  ummm….spontaneous good deed?

Watching the thought pattern of the parade of indicted Alaskan Republicans is really amazing.  Who knew there were so many different brands of denial?

Meanwhile, back in the real world, federal prosecutors turned over to Stevens’ attorneys a big fat pile of materials including both video footage, and audio recordings from someone who agreed to wear a wire.  This oughta get really interesting really soon.