Alaska Senator Stevens Pleads Not Guilty in Corruption Case
Thursday, July 31, 2008; 5:40 PM
Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) pleaded not guilty this afternoon to charges of making false statements about more than $250,000 in renovations to his Anchorage-area home and other gifts he received from executives of an oil services company.
At Stevens's arraignment in U.S. District Court, the senator's attorneys and prosecutors agreed they could start a trial by late September, just a month before the 84-year-old senator could face a tough battle in the November election. After a 30-minute recess to consider Stevens's request, U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan set a Sept. 24 trial date.
Stevens's attorney, Brendan Sullivan, initially asked Sullivan to schedule the trial for October so that Stevens can "clear his name" before the general election on Nov. 4. Brendan Sullivan also asked to submit legal briefs urging the judge to transfer the trial to Alaska.
"This is not a complex case, and it should move quickly," Stevens's attorney said, adding that "this is the first time in my life I have asked for a speedy trial."
Brenda K. Morris, a prosecutor for the Justice Department, said her team could start a trial by Sept. 22. It would take about three weeks to present the government's case, she said, adding that she has not extended any plea deals to Stevens.
Judge Sullivan indicated he was not inclined to grant the request to move the trial to Alaska, where Stevens's attorney said 90 percent of the witnesses reside.
Wearing a gray jacket and a blue tie, Stevens entered the court this afternoon amid a throng of reporters and declined to answer questions. He stood briefly at the beginning of the arraignment as his lawyer answered "not guilty" when Stevens was asked for a plea to the seven charges in the indictment.
Stevens sat stoically at the defense table in the crowded courtroom and listened as Brendan Sullivan argued for a speedy trial.
The senator quietly entered the courthouse yesterday to complete paperwork, avoiding reporters and television cameramen stationed outside, officials said.
Stevens was indicted by a federal grand jury on seven counts of concealing information on financial disclosure forms about the lucrative gifts from corporate executives from a now-defunct oil services company, Veco.
The longest serving Republican in the Senate, Stevens is accused of receiving items that include a Viking gas grill, a wrap-around deck and a new Land Rover, according to the 28-page indictment filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court.
Stevens, who faces a five-year maximum prison term on each of the seven counts in the indictment, once oversaw $900 billion in federal spending annually as chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee. As president pro tempore of the Senate from 2003 through 2006, he was in line of succession to become president. Stevens has temporarily relinquished his senior posts on several committees.