Sen. Ted Stevens' lead defense attorney blasted the government's case against the Alaska Republican, saying its efforts were a "twisted interpretation of the evidence" against "an innocent man."
Brendan Sullivan Jr., who has a record of having very few clients face conviction by a jury, argued on behalf of Stevens who is accused of hiding $250,000 worth of home renovation costs and other gifts by omitting them on financial disclosure forms required by the U.S. Senate. Stevens, the longest-serving GOP senator, is up for re-election in November.
The prosecution claimed in court that the main supplier of the gifts was Bill Allen, the ex-CEO of shuttered oil services firm Veco. The defense countered that the Stevens family paid $160,000 for the renovation project carried out at their Girdwood, Alaska, home.
Sullivan highlighted, in his closing argument, letters that Stevens sent to Allen in 2002. In one of them, Stevens asked Allen for a bill. "You owe me a bill ... remember Torricelli, my friend," Stevens wrote, in reference to former Sen. Robert Torricelli, who was ousted from the U.S. Senate amid an ethics investigation. "Friendship is one thing Congressional ... ethics rules entirely different." Sullivan also claimed that Allen hid the bills from the Stevenses.
Sullivan also pleaded with the jury to consider the character witness testimony from Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, and former Secretary of State Colin Powell. "Are you going to believe Daniel Inouye or Bill Allen?" Sullivan asked.
"If your conscience says not guilty, then it is your duty to say no," Sullivan added. "You have the power to do what's right ... I ask you to return seven not guilty verdicts."
Countering Sullivan's closing argument, lead prosecutor Brenda Morris exclaimed, "Wow! Were we at the same trial?
"No one is above the law ... not a teacher, not a lawyer, not a sitting United States senator." Morris asserted that, over the years, the evidence showed that Stevens was engaged in a pattern and practice of filing false and misleading financial disclosure forms.
In her closing, Morris chipped away at the defense, telling the jury, "The defendant's own witnesses contradicted each other. In an effort to undercut the defense argument that Stevens' wife handled all of the finances and paid all the bills relating to the home renovation," Morris told the jury of 11 women and 5 men, "That woman, Catherine Stevens, is still recovering from the bus he threw her under ... she is trying to cover for her husband."
Morris then launched into a series of anecdotes about Stevens' alleged receipt of gifts. Morris recounted for the jury what one co-worker told her. "He lives so close to the North Pole that maybe Santa and his elves came and did the work ... he had no idea he had been very, very good."
Morris added, "It's not about the final number, it's that he knew he got the deck, he knew he didn't pay for it and he knew he didn't report it."
Morris continued hammering away at Stevens and his friends, former Veco CEO Allen and another friend, Bob Persons, playing for the jury an FBI intercepted phone conversation where Allen and Persons discuss covering up invoices that noted "Labor paid by Bill."
On the tapes, Persons says to Allen, "We don't need this thing floating around ... We need to get the guy at Chugach Sewer & Drain to make that disappear from his records."