Stevens’ Team Launches His Defense

Posted October 9, 2008 at 3:58pm

Attorneys for Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) launched his criminal defense Thursday by calling to the witness stand Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), who said, “I can assure you that his word is good. As far as I am concerned, it is good enough to take the bank.”

Stevens is charged with seven counts of filing false statements over an eight-year period to conceal the receipt of more than $250,000 in gifts, primarily in the form of renovations to his home in Girdwood, Alaska, that were paid for by Bill Allen, former chief executive officer of the now-defunct oil services firm VECO.

Inouye was called as a character witness, and in a quiet voice, he explained that he and Stevens had built a strong friendship extending back to the 1960s, when they were considered outsiders in the Washington, D.C., establishment because they hailed from former U.S. territories.

Inouye refused to answer a hypothetical question from prosecutors about how he would view someone who had told a lie, saying that he was there to talk about Stevens and that “I’ve never known him to lie.”

Asked about Stevens’ reputation for truthfulness in the Senate, Inouye said it was “absolute.”

The defense brought former Secretary of State Colin Powell to the courthouse to testify Thursday morning, but he departed without testifying because of delays in the case. Defense attorneys said they intend to bring Powell back to testify.

The prosecution rested its case Thursday morning after more than a week of testimony from Allen and others about the extensive renovations that were performed at the house on the company’s tab. Prosecutors allege that VECO spent about $188,000 on the project, which Stevens never repaid and did not report as a gift.

After the prosecution rested, Judge Emmet Sullivan denied a defense motion to acquit Stevens on the spot. The Senator’s attorneys argued that the prosecution has failed to prove their case, in part because the government offered no evidence to show how much the market value of the house increased because of the renovation work.

Since there is no dispute that Stevens did pay some renovation bills that were presented to him — the defense contends that he paid about $160,000 — Stevens would only have received a “gift” if the market value of the home increased by more than that amount, Stevens’ team argued.