Stevens's Reputation 'Sterling,' Powell Says

Colin L. Powell leaves federal court in Washington after testifying.
Colin L. Powell leaves federal court in Washington after testifying. (By Susan Walsh -- Associated Press)
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By Del Quentin Wilber
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 11, 2008

Former secretary of state Colin L. Powell told jurors in the corruption trial of Sen. Ted Stevens yesterday that the powerful Alaska Republican had a "sterling" reputation among the nation's military and political leaders.

"He was someone whose word you could rely on," said Powell, who also is a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "As we say in the infantry, this is a guy you take on a long patrol."

Powell was the second high-profile character witness to testify for the defense in Stevens's trial on federal charges that the 84-year-old senator lied on financial disclosure forms to disguise receiving more than $250,000 in gifts and home renovations between 1999 and 2006. On Thursday, Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii) also attested to Stevens's integrity.

Powell said he had worked closely with Stevens on difficult national security and defense matters. "He always had the best interest of the country at heart," Powell testified in U.S. District Court.

Federal prosecutors allege that Stevens accepted many of the gifts and renovations to his house in Girdwood, Alaska, from Bill Allen, the former chief executive of Veco, a now-defunct oil services company.

Allen has testified that Stevens never paid him or his company for work on the house. A number of Veco employees have testified that they labored on the house for hundreds of hours from 2000 through 2002. Veco workers testified that they helped transform the small cabin into a two-story house with two decks, a whirlpool and a garage.

A litany of e-mails introduced by prosecutors have shown that Stevens was aware of the work at his house, which he calls the "chalet."

Stevens's attorneys have said the senator and his wife paid every bill they received, about $160,000 in all, to subcontractors over the years. Two contractors testified yesterday that they worked on the house in 2000 and always were paid for their work.

Two government employees also testified yesterday about the value of the house before and after the renovations. Government records, introduced by the defense, estimated that the work improved the value of the house by about $121,000 from early 2000 to 2002.

Stevens's legal team has argued that the senator believed he paid a fair-market price for the work.

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