Ted Stevens Seeks New Trial

3 12 2008

Here we go. Ted Stevens’ lawyers have been busy, and they will soon file a motion seeking a new trial for Alaska’s outgoing senior senator. His recent trial which found him guilty on seven felony counts on failure to disclose gifts and home renovations on his Senate Disclosure Forms was fraught with…weirdness, for lack of a better term. A witness being sent back to Alaska early by the prosecution, evidence being withheld from the defense, a juror having violent outbursts and other jurors trying to vote her off the island, another juror fabricating a story of her own father’s death and skipping town to watch a horse race, a key witness coming forward and admitting he committed perjury and stating that the prosecution showed him documents he wasn’t supposed to see, the same witness revealing a supposed contract on his life from the star witness for the prosecution… If this were the plot of a legal thriller, we’d advise the author to tone it down a bit and make it believable. But real life, as it often happens, is stranger than fiction.

Stevens, who was defeated in a bid for a seventh full term, will ask Judge Emmet Sullivan to overturn his conviction on seven federal corruption counts for failing to disclose more than $250,000 in improper gifts.

Stevens’ defense team raised numerous objections to the Justice Department’s handling of his corruption trial, arguing that the government deliberately withheld potentially exculpatory information and witnesses during the proceedings.

In addition, a prosecution witness, David Anderson, said he was coached by prosecutors on his testimony prior to his appearance as the final government witness, and unofficially promised immunity for himself and his family and friends if he took the witness stand. Prosecutors have vehemently denied Anderson’s allegations. A hearing on Anderson’s claims, laid out in a letter to Judge Sullivan, will be the subject of a hearing next month.

Stevens’ attorneys have not actually filed their request for a new trial yet, but are asking leave from the judge to submit a lengthy motion, one that exceeds local court rules on how long such a document can be.

“The trial in this case took an entire month and gave rise to numerous legal disputes, including motions, evidentiary objections, and juror issues,” Stevens’ attorneys wrote. “The many legal issues cannot adequately be briefed within the local rule’s presumptive 45-page limit. Sen. Stevens accordingly requests this page-limit extension to address the many grounds for a new trial and to preserve these issues in the event of a potential appeal.”

So whatever the reasons the defense will give for asking for a new trial, we know that it will be more than 45 pages worth. My guess is that it will be a LOT more than 45 pages. And it will undoubtedly be a good read, if you’re in to that sort of thing. I’ve been saving a good bottle of wine…

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