by Jill Burke
Thursday, September 25, 2008
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Federal prosecutors opened their case against Sen. Ted Stevens by accusing the longest-serving Republican senator of knowingly concealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts and home remodeling.
But Stevens' defense claims the senator had no idea he wasn't getting all the bills for his home renovation.
Prosecutor Brenda Morris said Stevens has learned in his 40 years in the Senate how to accept gifts without getting noticed. Additionally, Morris said that Stevens thumbed his nose at the public's right to know about such gifts.
"Ladies and gentlemen, you do not survive that long in this town without being smart, deliberate, forceful and knowing how to fly under the radar," Morris told the jury. "Stevens knows how to get things done with little said."
"We reach for the yellow pages," Morris said. "He reached for VECO."
Stevens is accused of lying about gifts from a powerful oil services company, VECO Corporation, and Stevens' friend Bill Allen, the company's chief executive. He faces up to five years in prison on seven counts of making false statements. He also faces a difficult challenge for his Senate seat, which he's held since the 1960s.
Meanwhile, Stevens' attorney claimed that an overzealous contractor is to blame.
Attorney Brendan Sullivan said Stevens paid $160,000 for renovations he wanted done on his Girdwood home. But Stevens had no idea Allen wasn't sending some of the bills, Sullivan told the court.
Stevens never asked for gifts such as a gas grill, a tool box, furniture or a complicated rope lighting system, Sullivan said, and he described Allen as someone who regularly went overboard.
Prosecutors said they'll prove Stevens kept his valuable relationship with Bill Allen hidden for one reason: he knew it was wrong, and he wanted the gifts to keep coming.
The defense said the only thing Stevens is guilty of may be a bad choice in a friend and his unwavering loyalty to Alaskans.
In the opening statements, Prosecutors referenced a conversation between Stevens and Allen that they apparently intercepted through surveillance.
In the conversation between Allen and Stevens a reference is made to "we're in this together."
Stevens goes on to say that in "worst case scenario we'll spend a lot of money on lawyers and do a little jail time."
Meanwhile, prosecutors are now in the process of putting former VECO employees involved in the home remodel on the stand.
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