In a flurry of court filings filed late this afternoon, attorneys for Sen. Ted Stevens asked a federal court to dismiss the indictment that charges the Alaska Republican with concealing $250,000 worth of gifts.
Stevens' attorneys claim in one of the seven court filings that the charges violate the Constitution's separation of powers authority.
"Only the Senate may discipline a senator for violating Senate rules and Congress cannot delegate that authority to the executive branch. This prosecution [therefore] cannot proceed and the indictment should be dismissed," they wrote.
A federal grand jury returned a seven-count indictment against Stevens on July 29, alleging that he "knowingly and intentionally sought to conceal and cover up his receipt of things of value by filing Financial Disclosure Forms that contained false statements and omissions."
The forms in question, filed annually from 1999 to 2006, did not mention $250,000 worth of gifts and home renovations prosecutors say were paid for by the now-defunct Alaska oil services firm VECO. Stevens entered a not guilty plea to the charges last month.
Referring to the alleged misstatements, the filing continues, "Even to the extent that the Senate may have intended that misstatements on the Financial Disclosure Reports be enforceable by the executive [branch], it had no authority to delegate federal prosecutors its exclusive constitutional authority to enforce Senate rules."
In a separate filing, Stevens' lawyers note that the criminal investigation and charges against the longest-serving Republican senator are in violation of the speech and debate clause.
"The indictment also broadly alleges solicitations for official action on behalf of VECO that Senator Stevens supposedly received as part of the so called 'scheme.' These allegations apparently involve Senator Stevens legislative actions, votes and decisions… evidence of how Senator Stevens 'acted, voted or decided' as a legislator -- in direct violation of the Speech or Debate Clause."
The clause prohibits prosecutors from taking legal action against members of Congress for legislative acts.
In a separate filing the defense argues that the indictment and charges do not specify "all of the 'things of value' that Senator Stevens allegedly received and failed to disclose." The defense notes that it is almost impossible for it to prepare a defense for trial next month if it doesn't have the specific items that Stevens allegedly received.
A status hearing on the case has been set for Wednesday. Stevens has requested a speedy trial so he can attempt to clear his name before he faces re-election in November. The trial is currently set to begin Sept. 24.