Stevens Judge Rejects Mistrial Motion

Posted September 29, 2008 at 11:01am

Judge Emmet Sullivan rejected a motion Monday by attorneys for Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens (R) to declare a mistrial over allegations federal prosecutors withheld information about a key witness. Instead, Sullivan ruled that other witnesses could be called back into court for further questioning by the defense.

Stevens is charged with 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.

Stevens’ attorney Craig Singer filed a motion late Sunday asserting federal prosecutors did not disclose information obtained in interviews with Rocky Williams, a former VECO employee whom several witnesses in the case have identified as the day-to-day supervisor of the Girdwood renovations project.

The motion sought to either dismiss the seven-count indictment against the lawmaker or, alternately, to declare the ongoing case a mistrial. Sullivan said Monday he would reject both suggestions, although federal prosecutors have yet to file a response.

In particular, the motion states that Williams denied to Stevens’ attorneys that he worked at the Girdwood site full time, asserting that he spent time on other projects even though he billed his time to the renovation.

“The government’s decision to withhold this information has prejudiced the defense. Had it been disclosed, the exculpatory evidence would have been a significant theme of defense counsel’s opening statement, and it could have been used effectively to cross-examine the government’s witnesses,” Singer wrote.

Federal prosecutors denied those accusations Monday, however, asserting that defense attorneys were aware of the alleged discrepancies in hours Williams billed for the project.

Prosecutor Nick Marsh cited an e-mail provided by Stevens’ own attorneys that appeared to acknowledge Williams worked on other projects during the same period.

The e-mail sent to Stevens from Bob Persons, a longtime friend of the Senator, stated: “I have to torment Rocky to keep him working on the chalet, rather than all the projects Bill keeps him working on.”

But prosecutors acknowledged they do not intend to put Rocky Williams on the witness stand. “For our purposes, we don’t think we need him,” Marsh said.

The prosecutors’ decision to return Williams to Alaska, however, drew a harsh response from Sullivan, who disparaged government attorneys who had received a court-issued subpoena requiring Williams to appear in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

“What the government did was to unilaterally quash its own subpoena,” Sullivan said.

He later added: “Somebody is treading in some very shallow water here.”

Marsh defended the decision citing the government’s determination it would not call Williams, but added: “We didn’t see it that way. We’re sensitive now, and we apologize.”