Oct. 27, 2008 -- After a string of errors in the trial of Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, jurors deliberating the case have found a small but crucial mistake in the case relating to the Republican's 2001 Senate financial disclosure form.
In a note to U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan the jury found that information in the indictment charging Stevens with making false statements on the forms and information on the senator's 2001 financial form contradicted each other.
The indictment against Stevens noted, "The first page of the 2001 Financial Disclosure Form contained the following question, followed by boxes for YES and NO:
'Did you, your spouse or dependent child receive any reportable gift in the reporting period (i.e., aggregating more than $260 and not otherwise exempt)? If yes, Complete and Attach PART V. On the 2001 Financial Disclosure Form, STEVENS checked the NO box."
The jury has correctly found that after reviewing Stevens' forms, the senator did check the "yes" box. The error is on page 6 of exhibit 884.
"These items do not correspond. What do we do?" the note from the jury read.
The request by the jury follows a trail in which the judge admonished the government for withholding evidence, submitting records into evidence that prosecutors knew were false as well as sending subpoenaed witnesses back to Alaska in the dead of the night without notifying the defense team.
The 2001 charge against Stevens is crucial. This is the year that renovations on his home were completed and the year he reportedly received furniture from Veco CEO Bill Allen, a $2,695 massage chair from friend Bob Persons, a $3,200 stained-glass window for his newly improved house, a Viking gas grill and a large tool set.
On his 2001 Senate form Stevens only reported receiving a $1,100 "Special Commemorative Gold Olympic coin" for serving as the honorary chairman of the Special Olympics.
The judge heard arguments from the opposing lawyers on how to respond to the jury's question and said, "This jury is very perceptive. ? They do not miss anything."
Defense attorney Craig Singer asked the judge to tell the jury that "the indictment is not evidence and that you should find the charge is not guilty."
Prosecutor Nicholas Marsh said of Stevens, "If we inadvertently got a typo in there. ? He failed to list gifts from Veco, Bill Allen and others. ? It doesn't matter if he checked yes or no."
Sullivan considered the issue and said, "It's not a typo because someone presumably reads these [indictments] before returning them."
Sullivan ruled to tell the jurors that the indictment is merely a charging document and is not considered evidence. He will instruct the jury with a written instruction after its lunch break that jurors must consider the evidence and testimony they have heard at trial to determine whether the government has proven the alleged offenses beyond a reasonable doubt.
Stevens testified before the jury that the massage chair was a "loan" from Persons; prosecutors noted questioned why it was still in the basement of his house in Washington seven years later.
Stevens also said he never wanted the furniture, grill or the tools Allen put in the house. He said that he never used the grill or the tools and that he and his wife were irate that Allen had removed their furniture from their home and placed his sofas and items in their house.