Allen to Appear Tuesday at Stevens Trial

Posted September 29, 2008 at 4:12pm

A key witness in the trial of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) is expected to take the witness stand Tuesday, when former VECO executive Bill Allen is set to testify.

[IMGCAP(1)]Stevens is charged with seven counts of filing false financial statements over an eight-year period to conceal the receipt of more than $250,000 in gifts — primarily in renovations to his Girdwood, Alaska, home — from the now-defunct VECO oil services firm and its executives. He has pleaded not guilty.

Allen’s testimony is expected to stretch over several days, with federal prosecutors estimating they will question him for about five and a half hours, and defense attorneys expected to conduct a lengthy cross-examination. In addition, a few witnesses are expected to appear before Allen is called Tuesday.

Allen, who has pleaded guilty to bribing Alaska legislators, is one of eight people convicted to date as the result of a federal investigation into state and federal corruption in Alaska.

Judge Emmet Sullivan indicated Monday that he would reject in part a motion by federal prosecutors to limit the defense team’s ability to query Allen about his role in two local criminal investigations, including an ongoing Anchorage, Alaska, probe into “allegations of misconduct.”

“I would not allow testimony into the nature of the charges. Suffice to say those are felony charges,” Sullivan said. The motion did not specify the alleged crimes, but Sullivan described the allegations Monday as “sex crimes involving a minor.”

“I don’t think the jurors need to know that for the purpose of an inquiry,” Sullivan said, asserting such information could bias jurors. But defense attorneys will be allowed to ask whether Allen is involved in an investigation to allow jurors to assess his motivations in cooperating with the prosecution.

In the meantime, federal prosecutors continued Monday to call forth a cast of individuals who at one time worked on Stevens’ Alaska home.

Among those witnesses, one recalled a brief meeting with Stevens, noting he had received a cigar from the Senator.

“He had given me a cigar and shook my hand, and told me good job with [a project supervisor] standing there,” testified Cecil Dale, a former VECO employee who is now an electrical consultant for CH2M Hill, the company that purchased VECO in 2007.

Asked by Stevens’ attorney Beth Stewart, “How was the cigar?” Dale replied: “Never smoked it.”

Another witness, Daniel Johnston, a former VECO employee and an electrician, also reported meeting Stevens, as well as the lawmaker’s wife, Catherine, son and grandchildren, once during his work on the Girdwood home.

The witness stated he was at the home when the Senator arrived, and described the scene, stating: “Sen. Stevens and his grandchildren came on a fire truck.”

“He shook my hand and said ‘nice to meet you,’” Johnston said. Catherine Stevens then offered to provide lunch, but Johnston said he declined.

Throughout the trial, attorneys for both sides have asked witnesses whether they have met Stevens, in order to demonstrate the level of Stevens’ knowledge about the renovations.