Defense Blasts Case Against Stevens

Posted October 21, 2008 at 10:55am

Updated: 1:45 p.m.

Brendan Sullivan, the defense attorney for Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), told the jury, “you have an innocent man on your hands,” as he began his closing arguments in the Senator’s criminal trial.

“To believe the government version of the evidence, you have to believe he is some kind of mastermind of conspiracy” writing letters years ago to create alibis for charges he might face today, Sullivan argued.

Sullivan said the government’s version of events has been “twisted” by its perspective of looking for corruption. “If you look at life through a filthy dirty glass … then the whole work looks dirty,” he said.

“The government has not proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt,” Sullivan added.

Stevens is charged with seven counts of failing to report gifts on his annual financial disclosure forms, including about $250,000 worth of renovations on his Alaska home from Bill Allen, chief executive officer of the now-defunct oil-services firm VECO.

Sullivan said the heart of the case is a hand-written note from Stevens to Allen in October 2002, in which Stevens asked him to send him a bill for upgrades to the house.

“Thanks for all the work on the chalet. You owe me a bill,” Stevens wrote, adding, “friendship is one thing, compliance with the ethics rules entirely different.”

Sullivan noted that this letter carried the exhibit number 495, likening it to the Washington Beltway, which bears the same number and will “take you straight into his mind” and prove that the Alaska Senator wanted bills and expected to pay for everything.

Sullivan said the government brought in Allen — who has already pleaded guilty to bribery charges in Alaska and was told that his cooperation would prevent his children from being charged — to give “false testimony” that Stevens was simply “covering his ass.”

Sullivan pointed out that Stevens sent the letter four days after his friend and neighbor Bob Persons, who was overseeing the renovation project, sent him a note telling him that the porch was the only new work that had been done.

Sullivan also walked the jury through the preparations Ted and Catherine Stevens were making to finance the renovation, including closing out a trust and taking a loan on the house.

“Does this show a conspiracy?” he asked. “Or does this show a couple gathering together their funds and making them available” to pay the bills of the construction project?

Sullivan also recounted evidence that the value of the house after the renovations was estimated by three different assessments as having added $104,000 to $124,000, and displayed the $162,000 in checks that Catherine Stevens paid various contractors for the work.

“What did they get out of this big conspiracy that ran eight years?” Sullivan asked.

While Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Bottini had presented the government’s case in a very business-like fashion earlier this morning, Sullivan’s presentation was theatrical. He jumped around the podium, sometimes almost shouting and pounding papers. Other times, he spoke in a whisper that was barely audible even in the courtroom.

Janie Lorber contributed to this report.