by Jill Burke
Monday, October 27, 2008
WASHINGTON -- Sen. Ted Stevens was convicted on all seven counts in his federal corruption trial Monday, forever staining the political career of the longest-serving Republican senator in history.
The jury of eight women and four men agreed with U.S. Department of Justice prosecutors' accusations that Stevens knowingly made false statements on Senate disclosure forms and schemed to conceal hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts he received regarding the renovation of his Girdwood home.
The jury -- which proceeded with an alternate after one juror was excused due to the death of her father -- deliberated for about four and a half hours Monday morning before handing down its stinging guilty verdict.
Stevens was visibly shaken as the verdicts came in -- he had vowed to clear his name and failed. Afterward, the senator and his attorneys said nothing, and hurriedly pushed their way into a waiting vehicle.
But late Monday, a defiant Stevens said he will continue his re-election campaign and the fight to clear his name isn't over -- he wants a new trial.
Stevens and his attorneys had several issues throughout the trial with actions of the prosecution, asking for four separate mistrials along the way.
Prosecutors did have some missteps during the trial. They introduced bad accounting evidence, which was later stricken, and kept information that could have been helpful to Stevens under wraps in violation of court rules.
"I am obviously disappointed in the verdict but not surprised given the repeated instances of prosecutorial misconduct in this case ..." Stevens said in a statement released by his office. "I will fight this unjust verdict with every ounce of energy I have. I am innocent ... I ask that Alaskans and my Senate colleagues stand with me as I pursue my rights. I remain a candidate for the United States Senate. I will come home on Wednesday and ask for your vote."
Still, the fact remains that Stevens is a convicted felon, and he has a short window to convince Alaskan voters to send a criminal back to Congress with Election Day looming Nov. 4.
Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, Stevens' Democratic challenger in the election, issued the following statement through his campaign office:
"This past year has been a difficult time for Alaskans, but our people are strong and resilient and I believe that we will be able to move forward together to address the critical challenges that face Alaska."
Whether or not he's re-elected, Stevens will likely face a tremendous amount of pressure to resign, and could be expelled by the Senate.
Stevens' conviction is the ninth the Department of Justice has won on 11 indictments. Stevens is the fourth of six current or former lawmakers indicted in the probe to lose to the government at trial.
And the team of prosecutors he went up against hasn't lost one of the cases yet.
"This investigation continues, as does our commitment to holding elected officials accountable when they violate our laws," said Matthew Friedrich, acting Assistant Attorney General.
After his indictment in July, facing re-election and a tenacious challenger, Stevens asked for and received a speedy trial. He also unsuccessfully pushed for the case to be tried in Alaska.
And so last month a judge delivered him into the hands of 12 citizens from the nation's capitol, who then delivered his fate.
"By their verdict, the jury found that the prosecution had proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Senator Stevens knowing filed false financial disclosure forms over the course of some six years," Friedrich said.
The trial began Sept. 22 with jury selection and opening arguments Sept. 25. Attorneys presented closing arguments Oct. 21. The jury received the case and went into deliberation the following day.