Stevens’ Team Focuses on Appraisal

Posted October 10, 2008 at 11:12am

An Alaskan property appraiser testified Friday that he estimated in 2000 that Sen. Ted Stevens’ (R-Alaska) renovated home would have a market value of about $203,000, a statement elicited by the defense to suggest that Stevens paid a fair price for what he thought the renovations were worth.

Stevens is facing a seven-count indictment that alleges he received things of value that he didn’t pay for and didn’t report on his annual financial disclosure forms as gifts. The list includes a massage chair, a sled dog, a back-up generator for his home and tens of thousands of dollars worth of renovations to his home.

There has been no dispute about the defense’s contention that Stevens spent about $160,000 on the renovations, paying contractors to move dirt, raise the house and complete the interior finish work.

But the prosecution alleges that the now-defunct VECO corporation, headed by Stevens’ friend Bill Allen, provided an additional $188,000 worth of work on the house that Stevens knew about but did not pay for.

The defense argued in motions earlier this week that Stevens has not actually received anything of value in the renovations if the increased value of his home is less than the $160,000 that he paid.

Gerald Randall said that in preparing his appraisal of the house for a local bank — Stevens has said he got a mortgage to pay for the renovations — he went to the home in September of 2000, when it had be raised but the first-floor renovations were unfinished.

Based on the plans for the renovation project and comparing the home to properties in the area that were similar to the planned renovations, Randall said he evaluated the total market price of Stevens home at $272,857 when complete, with $70,000 of that being the value of the land and the rest being the value of the structures.

Under cross-examination, Randall acknowledged that his appraisal did not include the custom-built steel staircase, the bedroom balcony and escape ladder, and other items that were not on the plans but were later installed by VECO employees.

Randall also agreed that renovations can sometimes cost more than the market value that they add to a home.

Stevens’ defense plans to call former Secretary of State Colin Powell as a character witness this afternoon, saying Powell will testify to Stevens’ “reputation for truthfulness within the federal intelligence and legislative communities.”