Witness: FBI 'Mentally Waterboarded' Me

Friend of Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, testified at the federal corruption trial.

Oct. 16, 2008 — -- A friend of Sen. Ted Stevens testified at the lawmaker's corruption trial that the FBI agents were hostile after he voluntarily let them into his home.

At the time, agents were executing search warrants in Alaska as part of the initial investigation into the Alaska Republican, 84, and now-defunct oil services company Veco. The senator is on trial for allegedly lying about $250,000 worth of gifts and home renovations prosecutors contend the company and its CEO paid for.

Under questioning by defense attorney Robert Cary, key defense witness Bob Persons said the meeting with the FBI "was confusing. … It was like being mentally waterboarded."

Persons said of the FBI agent who questioned him, "That was the most hateful human being I've ever met in my life. … It made me understand why there's a lot of innocent people in prison."

Persons owns the Double Musky Inn in Girdwood, Alaska, where Stevens' home is located. Prosecutors have claimed in court that Stevens did not pay for a major renovation of that home, which the defense denies. Persons kept the senator updated on how the work and renovation of the home was proceeding.

On Wednesday, Persons was asked by the defense about former Veco CEO Bill Allen's testimony that Stevens had asked for bills for the renovations to his Girdwood home to "cover his ass." The defense has used Persons to impeach Allen's testimony at the trial. Allen, who pleaded guilty to bribery and corruption charges last year, was the prosecution's star witness in the trial.

On Wednesday defense attorney Cary asked Persons, "Did you ever say to Bill Allen, 'Bill, don't worry about getting a bill. Ted's just covering his ass?'"

Persons laughed and responded, "No. … That's crazy."

Today Persons testified under cross-examination that "Bill [Allen] had to understand that Ted had to pay for everything as required by law. … He had to pay bills for anything and everything that was done at the house."

The prosecutors questioned Persons about Veco employees openly doing work on Stevens' home. Persons testified that he knew Veco employee Rocky Williams and Allen were involved in the project and that Persons kept Stevens updated on the work via a series of e-mails that have been entered into evidence.

To draw a contradiction in Persons' grand jury testimony about never seeing bills on the project, prosecutor Nicholas Marsh asked Persons about a Dec. 4, 2004, e-mail in which Persons wrote to Stevens, "The press will try to spin this on you, we're fully documented and so is Bill."

Marsh said, "You weren't trying to cover anyone's butt, were you? Because it would be crazy to suggest that?"

"No," Persons said with a chuckle.

Stevens' wife, Catherine, is the next defense witness to testify; she will be critical to the senator's defense and its argument that she paid for all the bills relating to the home renovation and that she was the driving force behind the project.

The senator could also take the witness stand in the case; he is listed on the possible witness list and sat in the witness stand Wednesday during the lunch break to see whether he could adequately hear his defense attorney's questions and see the video screen where exhibits are shown to the witnesses from that spot.