Stevens Jury Spots an Error

Posted October 27, 2008 at 11:57am

The jury in the trial of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) discovered an error in the indictment on Monday, noting that one of the charges against Stevens appears to be incorrect.

Stevens is charged with seven counts of failing to report gifts on his annual financial disclosure forms, including tens of thousands of dollars worth of renovations to his Alaska home that were performed by employees of VECO, a large oil services firm owned by his friend Bill Allen.

The indictment filed by prosecutors alleges that on his financial disclosure form for calendar year 2001, Stevens checked “no” for whether the filer received any reportable gifts, and he failed to file the pages on which gifts are required to be listed.

But the jury pointed out in a note to Judge Emmet Sullivan that in fact, Stevens had checked “yes” on his form that year, and had included a gift list on which he reported the receipt of a Special Olympics commemorative coin worth $1,100.

The jury asked Sullivan what they should do about this discrepancy.

Stevens’ defense team argued that the judge should instruct the jury that they cannot convict the Senator on any charge where the evidence does not support the charge.

Prosecutors replied that the charges against Stevens for that year — count two of the indictment — are that he failed to report gifts from Allen, VECO and others, even if he checked the proper box on the front of the form.

Prosecutor Nicholas Marsh said “if it turns out we inadvertently had a typo” in the indictment, that does not change the Senator’s failure to report gifts that he received that year.

Sullivan said he will instruct the jury that “the indictment is merely a charging document. It is not evidence, you must consider all of the evidence and my instructions to determine whether the government has proven each element of an offense in the indictment beyond a reasonable doubt.”