In a defiant and occasionally testy appearance in court today, Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, forcefully denied charges that he had accepted improvements to his Alaska home in violation of Senate ethics code.
Stevens was sharply questioned by lead prosecutor Brenda Morris this afternoon about his relationship with Bill Allen, the former CEO of a defunct Alaska oil services company, who the prosecution said, supplied the senator's Girdwood, Alaska, home with furniture and other amenities free of charge. The cross-examination was scheduled to resume Monday morning.
At times, the five-term senator flashed his well-known temper, telling Morris, "You're making a lot of assumptions," and declaring, "I'm not going to get into a numbers game with you."
When the prosecutor said that the oil company, Veco, was the general contractor on the Stevens' home, the senator exclaimed, "They were not and you know that."
The defense supplied copies of invoices the Stevenses were sent by Christensen Builders as evidence that Stevens and his wife paid over $160,000 for renovations on the home.
The cross-examination came after the senator took questions for hours from his own lawyers. Stevens testified that he never wanted items left at the house by Allen, and that Allen sometimes acted on his own by adding things to the Stevens' home, including a steel staircase on a deck, a gas grill, spare furniture, a giant toolkit and rope lighting that covered the home, and an 80-foot tree on the property.
The government contends that Stevens knowingly accepted all of the items but failed to report them, along with work done by Veco, on Senate financial disclosure forms.
Morris questioned why Stevens let Allen use his house, even when he did things to upset the senator and his wife. "If you didn't want all of these items, why didn't you get your key back?" asked the prosecutor.
"He was using the place much more than I was. ... There are no gifts there at all," Stevens said.
Stevens told the jury that he was at home only two nights in 2000 and spent less than 20 days there during the year.
Morris closely questioned Stevens about renovations, including a deck added to the home in 2002, when most of the other renovations were complete. Earlier in the day, Stevens told his defense lawyer he had no idea that a steel staircase would be added to his home, which he calls a "chalet."
"It's not a question of wanted it ... it was there when I saw it," Stevens told the prosecutor.
When the prosecutor kept pressing the senator about the staircase, Stevens shot back that it was from Allen's junk pile. "It was left over from an [oil] platform. Did you know that?" the senator asked.
Morris zeroed in on the point, saying it proved that Veco material was being used on the senator's home and that Allen directed the effort.
"Veco is not Bill Allen to me. Bill Allen is not Veco," Stevens replied. "You're the one bringing Veco in here. Bill Allen is my friend."
The defense has highlighted memos and notes from Stevens, asking Allen for bills for the work.
When the press began to inquire about rumors that Veco had done the work, Stevens' friend Bob Persons, who monitored the progress on the home, sent the senator an e-mail dated Dec. 4, 2004. "The press will try to spin this on you, we're fully documented and so is Bill," the e-mail read.
"Weren't you covering your bottom with these e-mails?" Morris asked the senator.
Stevens responded, "My bottom wasn't bare."