Jurors Seek Clarity on Disclosure Rules

Posted October 23, 2008 at 11:53am

The jury in the criminal trial of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) has asked the judge to clarify the rules regarding reporting of liabilities on annual Congressional financial disclosure forms.

Stevens is charged with failing to report gifts that he received over several years, particularly tens of thousands of dollars worth of renovations that were allegedly paid for by Bill Allen, former chief executive officer of VECO.

The prosecution made the point during the trial that if Stevens intended to pay for them, then those outstanding costs would count as liabilities that he should have reported on his forms.

In a note to the judge read in open court this afternoon, jurors wrote, “Please clarify the liability cost as it is not readily clear in Senate regulations.”

The judge has given the parties time to discuss the appropriate language before he sends a reply to the jury.

Judge Emmet Sullivan initially said he would instruct the jury that the forms “require the filer to disclose the amount of liabilities in excess of $10,000 that were owed by the filer at any point in time during the calendar year,” but the defense suggested the rules are more complex than that, and asked for time to suggest more nuanced wording.

The jury also sent a note that the judge did not read, which apparently suggests some difficulty with a juror. Sullivan asked the parties how to deal with the note, and prosecutor Brenda Morris suggested contacting the alternate jurors.

Sullivan said that was premature but asked the parties to conduct legal research on the issue.

In a third note, the jurors also asked the court to provide a page of the indictment that had been inadvertently left out of the copy that was sent to them.