Senator, Sled Dog Champs, 'Hobo Jim' Testify at Stevens Trial

Sen. Ted Stevens began his defense against charges that he submitted inaccurate financial disclosure forms for gifts and renovations to his Alaska home, by calling as witnesses a senator from the rival party, sled dog champions and an Alaskan music folk singer.

The senator, Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, testified as a character witness for Stevens, R-Alaska.

The other witnesses appeared to side with Stevens on the disputed value he reported for a sled dog he was given.

Inouye on Stevens: 'His Word Is Good'

Inouye, the leadoff defense witness, described his and Stevens' careers in the U.S. Senate, which both have spanned more than 40 years.

"I can assure you: His word is good," Inouye told the jury under brief questioning from lead defense attorney Brendan Sullivan. "It's good enough to take to the bank."

The prosecution then began questioning Inouye, who seemed confused at times by the line of questioning.

"How do you judge character?" prosecutor Nicholas Marsh asked.

Inouye, who, like Stevens, is a World War II veteran, said of his friend, "He served in the Army. ... He was in the Flying Tigers. ... We have the same values."

Asked what he thought of people who may be accused of making misleading statements, Inouye said, "If you're having me suggest I make my judgment on rumors ... I don't."

"If you learned someone lied to you and was under oath," Marsh said, "stood up and swore to tell the truth but then told a lie, would it have an impact?"

"Are you talking about Ted Stevens?" Inouye asked.

Marsh said that he was asking Inouye a hypothetical question, to which Inouye replied, "You should ask me if Ted Stevens lied under oath. ... I have never heard him lie under oath, and I would not expect that."

Inouye later added, "I'm not inclined to answer hypothetical questions."

Sullivan countered the prosecution's questions by asking Inouye, "Sen. Stevens' reputation for honor and integrity are unquestioned?"

"Absolute," Inouye said.

How Much Was Sled Dog Worth?

After Inouye stepped down from the witness chair, the defense took aim at gifts the prosecution claims Stevens received from individuals -- including Bill Allen, the former CEO of VECO, a now-defunct oil services firm -- but did not enter properly on his Senate Financial Disclosure forms.

In one instance, the government alleged Stevens inaccurately valued a sled dog given to him by friends at a charity event. The dog was auctioned for approximately $1,000 at the 2003 Kenai River Classic. But when the high bidders passed the dog along to Stevens, he claimed it as a $250 gift.

Dean Osmar, an Iditarod sled dog racer and champion who bred the dog, testified that it was a runt of a litter and not worth much more than $200.

Next up on the witness stand was James Varsos, also known as "Hobo Jim," an Alaskan music star who received the dog from Osmar and donated it for auction. Varsos testified that the breeder said he could take a runt of the litter for the charity event.

David Monson, another sled dog champion and longtime owner of a sled dog racing kennel, eventually took the Stevens' dog and other dogs from Washington back to Alaska after it was clear the dogs were not well-suited for life with Stevens in the nation's capital.

"We did question," Monson said, "if it was a good idea to have a sled dog in downtown Washington, D.C.

"They weren't very good as sled dogs." he added.

The defense will continue calling witnesses Friday. It is expected the defense will call more than 20 witnesses in the next several days, including former Secretary of State Colin Powell.