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Contempt in Court

Sen. Ted Stevens proved prickly when he took the stand in his trial.
Sen. Ted Stevens proved prickly when he took the stand in his trial. (By Dana Verkouteren -- Associated Press)

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Still, any bid for sympathy was offset by his orneriness. When Sullivan asked him to describe a photo of an iron balcony built for his home, Stevens snapped, "I don't know what you call it," and drummed his fingers.

Sullivan tried to anticipate the prosecutor's attacks by flashing an image of each gift Stevens received and asking him to explain. But Stevens's claims of ignorance, lined up together, seemed increasingly unlikely. The sled-dog puppy: "Someone put this little dog in my hands." The armchair, ottoman and sofa: "I literally walked into the home and found new furniture." He was also totally surprised to discover the five-foot-high steel sculpture of migrating salmon in his garage.

Morris, when her turn came, did her best to provoke the fierce-tempered witness. "You were the lion of the Senate, and yet you didn't know how to stop a man from putting big-ticket items in your home," she taunted.

Stevens took the bait. She asked why he gave back the puppy. " 'Give back' is not a good word," he growled. She asked about the deck. "I testified I didn't object to it, all right?" She asked him to clarify the role of Veco's chief. "It's clear to me, ma'am." She asked about his wife. "She testified yesterday, and I thought she answered your questions very well." She asked about a man who supervised the construction. "Ask him; I don't know." She asked if Veco served as his general contractor. "They were not -- you know that."

Late in the round, Morris peppered Stevens with questions about the architect. "That's three questions," he replied. "Which one you want to ask, ma'am?"

Morris tried to comply with the demand, asking Stevens why he accepted the work of Veco's architect as a gift. "If it was a gift, why did I ask for a bill?" he retorted.

"To cover your butt?" the prosecutor suggested again.

"It wasn't bare," Stevens shot back.


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