Oct. 20, 2008 -- Prosecutors grilled Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, at his federal corruption trial Monday, attempting to prove that the lawmaker concealed gifts and a major home renovation project.
Lead prosecutor Brenda Morris went through a series of e-mails and memos with Stevens that he'd sent to a friend and a former oil services company executive.
The prosecution has claimed in court that Stevens, 84, concealed $250,000 worth of gifts and home renovations by not reporting them on financial disclosure forms required by the U.S. Senate. A now-defunct oil services firm, Veco, and its ex-CEO Bill Allen paid for the overhaul to the senator's Girdwood, Alaska, home, according to the prosecution.
The defense has countered that the Stevenses paid more than $160,000 for the renovation project, but prosecutors attempted Monday to establish a solid connection between Stevens and Veco.
Morris noted that Stevens never once referenced another firm, Christensen Builders, which the defense has said was the general contractor on the Stevens' home renovation project. Instead, Morris said, Stevens referred numerous times to a project foreman who was employed by Veco.
The prosecution questioned Stevens about his wife's communications with Veco employees. Prosecutors entered into evidence a FedEx package receipt from 2001 sent to Bill Allen "attention Rocky Williams," a company employee who had worked as the foreman on the project.
During his testimony, Stevens maintained that the foreman had been employed by Veco at times and worked for Allen on other projects. While he was working on his house project, the foreman was not there with Veco.
Morris said to the senator, "Your wife knew ... your staff knew but you didn't."
Stevens was also shown a January 2006 invoice for plumbing work done at his house for $1,118, which was addressed to him but noted that Allen clearly paid for the labor with "Labor paid by Bill" on the invoice.
Stevens maintained that he'd asked for a bill from Allen in writing and told the prosecutor, "I didn't know what it cost. ... I tried to get Bill Allen on the phone and via e-mail."
Morris zeroed in on gifts that the senator had been given that the government claims he never mentioned on his financial disclosure forms. Concerning a $2,695 massage chair that a friend bought for Stevens in 2001, Morris asked Stevens, "And the chair is still at your house?"
"Yes," Stevens said, adding that it was a loan.
"How is that not a gift?" She pressed the senator. "He bought that chair as a gift, but I refused it as a gift. ... I told him I would not accept it as a gift. We have lots of things in our house that don't belong to us," Stevens said.
Morris said to the senator, "You better be careful. ... So, if you say it's not a gift, it's not a gift?"
Stevens said, "I refused it as a gift. ... I let him put it in our basement at his request."
Stevens said he only used the chair a few times and had been in pain after a series of medical procedures and a bout of bronchitis.
Asked about the $29,000 giant fish statue on the deck of the home, which was given to him after a charity event, Stevens testified that it was destined for the Ted Stevens Foundation. Morris pointed out that the foundation does not have a building yet, to which Stevens said, "I have not died yet. ... You go right ahead with your next questions, miss."
As the prosecutor continued questioning him about the large bronze statue of three salmon, Stevens reverted to his defense of blaming his wife: "Catherine decides what goes to the foundation."
The senator concluded testifying in his defense Monday, appearing more subdued than during his feisty testimony last week. Stevens' third day on the witness stand completed testimony in the four-week trial; both sides will present closing arguments before the jury of 11 women and 5 men Tuesday, which are expected to take the entire day.
The jury is expected to begin deliberations in the case as early as Wednesday.