Stevens Will Be Excused From Trial to Vote

Posted September 23, 2008 at 8:49am

Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens (R) will be excused from appearing at his trial in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in the event of Senate votes, Judge Emmet Sullivan ruled Tuesday.

But Sullivan warned Stevens, who faces seven counts of filing false financial statements, that his absence could negatively influence jurors, noting: “Sometimes people reach the wrong impressions for the wrong reasons.”

Stevens’ attorney, Brendan Sullivan, noted the Senator will likely need to invoke the privilege this week, anticipating the Senate adjournment by this weekend.

Addressing the court for the first time since his July arraignment, Stevens said: “I don’t intend to debate, only to vote.”

Emmet Sullivan granted the motion, noting he would inform the jury not to interpret Stevens’ absence by stating: “There’s nothing inappropriate for the Senator not being here form time to time. Do not speculate on why he’s not here.”

But federal prosecutors requested that the judge inform the jury only that Stevens has waived his appearance during any absences, with no further explanation.

Stevens has pleaded not guilty to the charges of filing false financial statements to conceal his receipt of more than $250,000 in gifts over an eight-year period.

Jury selection continued in the trial Tuesday, with opening arguments expected as early as Wednesday.