Witnesses Say Stevens Paid Bills

Posted October 10, 2008 at 12:47pm

Updated: 2:35 p.m.

Defense attorneys for Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) called witnesses from two Alaskan contracting firms that had worked on Stevens’ home renovations, who said the Senator and his wife paid them promptly and in full for every bill they were sent.

[IMGCAP(1)]The witnesses — two from an excavating firm that dug soil on his property and a third from the company that raised his house — all said they dealt with Bob Persons, a neighbor of Stevens who was overseeing the project, and not with the Senator himself.

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 backup generator for his home, and tens of thousands of dollars worth of renovations to his home.

On Thursday, Dave Anderson, a former employee of the oil services firm VECO, testified that he had spent months at the site raising the house, framing in the walls for the new first floor, custom building a deck, staircase and other portions of the renovation. Stevens was never billed for the work and never paid VECO.

Today, Tony Hannah, the contractor who raised the house, testified that he performed some of the tasks that Anderson claimed to have done. He also said that a home raising like the one at Stevens’ home usually takes about a week, but in this case it took about five weeks because the crews who were finishing the first floor framing did not have it ready to put the house back down.

“We had to make a couple extra trips,” Hannah said. “We would come to let the house down … [but] it wasn’t ready.”

There has been no dispute about the defense’s contention that Stevens spent about $160,000 on the renovations, paying contractors like Hannah to move dirt, raise the house and complete the interior finish work. The defense showed the jury several checks that Sen. Stevens’ wife, Catherine, had paid to Hannah and other contractors for work on the house.

But the prosecution alleges that VECO, owned 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.

An Alaska property appraiser testified Friday that he had estimated in 2000 that Stevens’ renovated home would have a market value of about $203,000, a statement elicited by the defense to suggest that Stevens paid what he thought the renovations were worth.

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 he paid.

The defense has contended throughout the trial that Stevens paid his bills promptly and was unaware of much of the work that was going on at the site because he was there infrequently and his wife was in charge of paying the bills.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell told a jury Friday that the Stevens’ reputation is “in a word, sterling.”

Appearing as a character witness, Powell said that throughout the 1980s, when he held several senior military positions that required him to work closely with Congress, he frequently worked with Stevens. Powell said Stevens was direct and straightforward and would stand by any agreement he had made.

Powell said that in the terms of the infantry ranks from which he rose, “this is a guy you take on a long patrol.”