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The trial of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) was sidetracked briefly on Tuesday by a dispute over whether the governments lead witness was being coached by his personal attorney during cross-examination.
Late Monday, after the jury was dismissed, Judge Emmet Sullivan called out to an attorney sitting in the galley and demanded that he step forward and identify himself.
The attorney was Bob Bundy, who is the personal attorney for Bill Allen, the former oil company executive who the government alleges provided gifts to Stevens, including thousands of dollars worth of renovations to Stevens home.
Sullivan said he had seen Bundy nodding his head as if to coach Allen on his answers in the witness stand.
Tuesday morning, Sullivan returned to the topic, saying he was prepared to lecture Bundy about what he said was borderline obstruction of justice, but Bundy was not in the room.
I saw someone attempting to communicate with a witness, a clearly angered Sullivan said. He was nodding his head left to right to suggest to the witness to say no.
Brendan Sullivan, defense counsel for Stevens, told the judge that the Senators personal attorney sitting in the gallery had seen the same gestures and was concerned enough about it to talk to a member of Stevens defense team.
Tuesday afternoon, the defense team provided the judge with copies of statements regarding those events from the attorney and the member of the defense team.
Judge Sullivan said he was unsure how to handle the matter, but said he might refer it to the U.S attorneys office for further investigation.
Bundy was not in the courtroom Tuesday, but his law partner Creighton Magid rose instead, and said Bundy flatly denied making any communication with Allen in the witness stand and said he was torn up over the allegation. Magid said it was unfair for the court to discuss the allegations in public, without having Bundy present to defend himself.
Prosecutors rose to Bundys defense and said they knew him to be of great personal integrity.
Questioned about the incident Tuesday afternoon, Allen denied that his attorney was coaching him. Asked if he saw Bundy shaking his head, Allen said, "no, he did not do that."