Prosecution Wraps; Case Goes to Jury

Posted October 21, 2008 at 4:25pm

After the defense completed its closing arguments in the corruption trial of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) claiming that the government was trying to convict an innocent man, prosecutor Brenda Morris stepped to the podium and snapped the courtroom to attention.

“Wow!” she yelped. “Were we at the same trial?”

“The evidence that I saw was totally different than that imaginative display I just sat through,” she said.

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.

Stevens’ attorney Brendan Sullivan argued throughout the afternoon that Stevens repeatedly asked for bills for the renovations on his home, that he tried to refuse gifts that were offered to him and that pricey items that were in his house were loans or the property of other people.

But Morris said this version of the case requires a convoluted series of explanations that varied throughout the proceedings.

“The government evidence is consistent and it’s reasonable,” Morris said. “What the defendant would have you believe is inconsistent and unreasonable.”

Stevens was one most powerful people in the Senate, Morris argued, but the defense paints him as someone who “didn’t know how to get his key back? Didn’t know how to get a bill? Didn’t know how to stop a crazy man from putting stuff all up in his house?”

Morris said that Stevens has tried to pin blame on everyone else — on Allen, on the prosecution and on his wife, Catherine Stevens — but that the truth is that he went to great lengths to hide the gifts that he was receiving because “the defendant did not want to be known out there as the Senator that had the house that VECO built.”

Morris suggested Catherine Stevens is “still recovering from the bus he threw her under.”

Sullivan had told jurors earlier that, “without sufficient evidence, the government comes here late in the night of a good man’s life and they try to brand him a criminal.”

“You have to power to do what’s right,” he told them. “You have the power to say ‘not guilty’ seven times.”

But Morris made the opposite plea: “I ask you to do something that very few people have done … stand up to him.”

Stevens “needs to stand up and take responsibility, just like any other defendant that was in this courtroom,” Morris said.

Judge Emmet Sullivan dismissed the jury for the day and then announced that he would give it instructions for about an hour and a half Wednesday morning before sending them back to deliberate.