Jury Selection Begins In Trial of Sen. Stevens
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Jury selection in the trial of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) began yesterday, with a federal judge disclosing that several U.S. senators and former secretary of state Colin L. Powell may be called as witnesses.
More than 180 prospective jurors packed into a large courtroom at the U.S. District Court to be sworn in and to fill out lengthy questionnaires.
Stevens, one of the most powerful Republicans in Congress, has skipped most pretrial hearings but attended yesterday. As members of the jury panel filed into the courtroom, he swiveled in his chair and looked intently at their faces.
Stevens, who wore a blue tie and an American-flag pin, is charged with seven counts of lying on financial disclosure forms to hide more than $250,000 in home renovations and gifts he is said to have received from an oil services firm. Stevens was indicted in July and requested a speedy trial in the hope of clearing his name before the November election. The 84-year-old senator is seeking his seventh full term.
U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan read a list of more than 200 potential witnesses to potential jurors. It included some who are crucial to the case, such as Bill Allen, the former chief executive of the oil services company Veco. Prosecutors have said Allen gave many of the gifts to Stevens and funded extensive renovations to the senator's home in Girdwood, Alaska.
Allen, who has pleaded guilty to federal bribery charges, has testified in trials in Alaska that resulted in convictions of two state legislators, part of what has become a wide-ranging corruption investigation.
Other potential witnesses included Powell; Democratic Sens. Edward M. Kennedy, (Mass.), Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.) and Daniel K. Inouye (Hawaii); and Republican Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (Utah). The judge did not indicate which side had put them on its witness list but emphasized that not all would be called to testify during what is expected to be a month-long trial.
The prospective jurors are scheduled to be questioned today in court by the judge and attorneys for both sides. Sullivan said he will seat 12 jurors and four alternates for the trial. Opening statements are expected to begin tomorrow, Sullivan has said.
With Stevens trying to manage a reelection campaign, his Senate responsibilities and a high-profile trial at the same time, his attorneys filed a motion yesterday to waive the senator's appearance at the trial "from time to time" so he can attend to official duties.
One of his attorneys, Robert Cary, said at a hearing yesterday afternoon that Stevens might have to miss the trial on some days to attend meetings or cast votes on legislation involving the financial crisis.