Prosecutors Say Stevens Trial Belongs in D.C.

Posted August 12, 2008 at 1:55pm

Federal prosecutors argued Tuesday against moving the upcoming trial of Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens (R) to his home state, asserting it is unnecessary and could potentially taint potential jurors.

Stevens, indicted in July on seven counts of filing false statements in order to conceal the receipt of more than $250,000 in gifts over an eight-year period, is scheduled to face trial on Sept. 22 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

The Senator’s attorneys filed for a change of venue last week, citing the dozens of witnesses expected to travel from Alaska to testify in the case as well as the potential impact the trial could have on Stevens’ re-election campaign.

In a response filed Tuesday, federal prosecutors argued that the case should remain in its current jurisdiction, “where the crimes took place and the indictment was properly returned.”

The prosecutors also questioned Stevens’ assertion that his campaign would be affected, noting that Judge Emmet Sullivan had already scheduled a trial for late September in response to Stevens’ request that the trial be completed before the November general election.

“Stevens first demanded to have a trial prior to the November election (and thus during his campaign period), and then after that demand was met, now uses the fact that the trial will be prior to the November election (and thus during his campaign period) as a primary basis in support of his request for a discretionary venue,” the prosecutors wrote.

In addition, the prosecution suggested that were the trial moved to Alaska, Stevens’ or his opponent’s campaigning could require the court to sequester the jury.

“Although it might very well be that the significant amount of Stevens’ pretrial campaign activities (as well as those of his opponents) could potentially taint a jury pool in Alaska, there can be no question that his proposal to campaign during the trial poses severe problems,” the prosecutors wrote. They later concluded that a “trial jury in the District of Alaska would effectively have to be sequestered, and precluded from having any access to television, radio, or newspapers during the course of the trial. The necessary effect of this would be to deprive the members of the jury not only access to their families and their homes and their normal activities, but likely to their ability to participate in the electoral process in advance of the November 2008 general election.”

A hearing on Stevens’ motion is scheduled for Aug. 20.