Stevens Friend Likens FBI Interview to ‘Waterboarding’

Posted October 16, 2008 at 10:00am

The friend of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) who oversaw the renovation at the Senator’s Alaska home in 2000 and 2001 said his first encounter with the FBI “was like being mentally waterboarded,” which may account for any inconsistency in his answers over time.

Bob Persons, Stevens’ friend and neighbor in Girdwood, Alaska, admitted on cross-examination Thursday that in 2001 he bought a $2,700 massage chair as a gift for the Senator, and that he did not recall until earlier this year that Stevens had said he could not accept the gift.

The chair is one of several gifts that Stevens is alleged to have received but not reported as required on his annual Congressional financial disclosure form. Persons testified in Stevens’ criminal trial.

In an e-mail exchange at the time, Stevens had emphasized that the chair would have to be a loan, not a gift. Persons acknowledged that the chair has nevertheless remained in Stevens’ Washington, D.C., home, and that he has seen it only once. Persons said he did not recall the e-mail exchanges or the idea that the chair was a loan until his lawyer showed him the e-mails earlier this year.

“I should have run over there and gotten it out of there, but I didn’t,” Persons said.

Persons admitted that he would not have told the FBI agents who initially interviewed him in September 2006 that the chair was a loan, but he said that the entire first interview with the FBI was confusing to him.

“That was the most hateful human being I ever met in my life,” Persons said of the first FBI agent to arrive at his door. “It was confusing. … It reached a point where I didn’t know whether I was answering the questions or he was. It was like being mentally waterboarded. That guy was awful.”