Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens took the stand at his federal corruption trial Thursday, telling jurors that he never deceived anyone and did not lie in his financial paperwork.
Stevens, an 84-year-old Republican, is on trial for allegedly concealing $250,000 in gifts, including a major construction project, by not reporting them on the forms required by the U.S. Senate. Prosecutors say a shuttered oil company and its ex-CEO provided the gifts and paid for the renovations, but the defense has denied the accusations.
Stevens' attorney, Brendan Sullivan Jr., asked the lawmaker if he had always filed accurate and truthful disclosure forms.
"Yes, sir," Stevens replied.
Sullivan also asked if Stevens had ever intended to file false statements, or engaged in a scheme to deceive anyone. The senator answered "no" to both questions.
At times speaking directly to the jury of 11 women and five men, Stevens also recounted his childhood in Indianapolis, noting that he sold newspapers as a 6-year-old boy during the Great Depression.
Stevens, who once served as the U.S. attorney from Alaska, will face cross examination from federal prosecutors Friday. As he left the federal courthouse in Washington, D.C., he pumped his fist in the air and boarded a van with his defense team as reporters asked how it felt to take the stand.
Earlier Thursday, Catherine Stevens testified at her husband's trial, telling jurors she paid more than $140,000 to cover the massive home renovation project at the heart of the case. Defense attorneys have said in court that the Stevens family paid out more than $160,000 to contractors and suppliers.
She also testified that she changed her husband's original plans for renovations to their home in Girdwood, Alaska. She said that her husband originally wanted to raise their small A-frame "chalet" and have a large room built underneath the existing structure with bunk beds for their children and grandchildren, but she changed the plans, saying they needed more privacy and a more livable home.
Asked by defense attorney Robert Cary what Bill Allen, the former CEO of Veco, the company the prosecution says paid for the project, did on the house, Catherine Stevens replied, "He was a friend that volunteered to find some people to work on the chalet."
Cary methodically questioned Catherine Stevens' wife about a series of invoices and checks for more than $140,000 that were signed by her to Christensen Builders, the general contractor on the house.
After the majority of the work had been done on the house, the senator's wife testified that she was very upset to find that a metal staircase had been installed on the house and that Allen had stayed at the home on several occasions and moved his own furniture into the Stevens' residence. Describing the steel staircase, which looks more fitting on an oil platform than a residential house in the ski town of Girdwood, Catherine Stevens said, "I was extremely angry."
"They were very dangerous… inappropriate for the chalet," Catherine Stevens testified.
The defense has been trying to show that Allen made his own decisions to add things to the Stevens' home without their knowledge, including the stairs, placing a large Viking gas grill on the deck and moving his own furniture into the home.