Sen. Stevens Takes Stand, Denies Trying to Hide Gifts
Friday, October 17, 2008
Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska took the witness stand in his own defense yesterday and immediately denied charges that he lied on financial disclosure forms to conceal gifts and extensive home renovations he received from a business executive.
The powerful Republican's denials capped an extraordinary day in his trial that also featured his wife's testimony. Within moments of the 84-year-old Stevens taking the stand, his attorney rapidly asked three questions at the heart of the case.
"Senator, when you signed those financial disclosure forms, did you believe them to be accurate and truthful?" asked the lawyer, Brendan Sullivan.
"Yes, sir," Stevens replied.
"Did you intentionally file false financial disclosure forms?"
"No, I did not."
"Did you ever scheme to conceal anything from the Senate?"
Stevens, the first U.S. senator to face trial in more than two decades, is accused of filing false Senate documents to disguise receiving more than $250,000 in gifts and remodeling work on his house in Girdwood, Alaska, between 1999 and 2006. Justice Department prosecutors have alleged that many of the gifts and renovation work were financed by Bill Allen, a close friend of Stevens's and the head of the now-defunct oil services company Veco.
Stevens asked Allen and his laborers to do the project because the senator knew he could get the work done free, prosecutors have said.
Stevens's legal team has said the senator and his wife paid every bill they received, about $160,000 worth. Most of that money went to a residential construction firm, Christensen Builders, which was brought onto the project by Allen. The Stevenses thought they paid a fair market price for the work, their attorneys have said.
Stevens is expected to continue testifying today. The trial should conclude by this afternoon, with closing arguments scheduled for Monday.