Prosecution Allowed an Additional Witness

Posted October 9, 2008 at 9:43am

The judge in the criminal trial of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) agreed on Thursday to allow prosecutors to call one last witness, in order to bolster the case that was weakened Wednesday when the judge threw out key evidence.

At the request of prosecutors, Judge Emmet Sullivan also agreed to amend his instruction to the jury regarding that evidence, eliminating language he had proposed that would have informed jurors that the government knowingly presented false evidence in court.

Sullivan had berated the prosecution on Wednesday for introducing into evidence billing records that indicated two oil company employees, Dave Anderson and Rocky Williams, were working on Stevens’ house at the company’s expense in late 2000 and early 2001. Stevens is accused of failing to report on his annual financial disclosure forms hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of renovations that the company, VECO, and its chief executive, Bill Allen, were providing at his home without being paid by the Senator.

Anderson had previously told the grand jury that he was not in Alaska at the time and that the billing records were incorrect; the government had known about this testimony but had not informed the defense prior to trial.

On Thursday, the judge said he will simply instruct the jury to disregard the testimony regarding the two employees, without mentioning the prosecution’s role in presenting that evidence.

Prosecutors said on Wednesday that they had called their final witness, but after the judge’s ruling, they asked permission to call Anderson to testify directly about the hours he and others worked on the site.

The defense objected, arguing that the government was trying to present a new witness to make up for damage that was done to their case by their own misbehavior.

“They were sanctioned for their conduct,” said defense attorney Robert Cary, and now “they want to reverse, rewind and pretend like it never happened.”

Cary and partner Brendan Sullivan argued that they had already prepared to begin presenting the defense case today, and they had the first witnesses — former Secretary of State Colin Powell and Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) — waiting in the courthouse to testify.

But Sullivan said he would allow the prosecution to call Anderson and would allow the defense to dismiss their witnesses and call them back at a later date.

Shortly after 10 a.m., Powell left the courthouse, about an hour after he had arrived. The defense attorneys said they still hope to begin presenting their case this afternoon, with Inouye taking the stand.