WASHINGTON — All the bluster about "dilatory" tactics aside, it looks as though Sen. Ted Stevens will go to trial on corruption charges in two weeks, as scheduled and in the middle of his re-election bid.
Lawyers for the Alaska Republican tried but failed Wednesday to have the case thrown out on the grounds that it's unconstitutional and that some counts in the indictment were outside the statute of limitations. Stevens, 84, faces seven felony counts of knowingly taking home repairs and gifts worth more than $250,000 from the now-defunct oil-services company Veco Corp. and failing to report them on his annual Senate disclosure forms.
U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan ruled against most of the motions filed by Stevens' lawyers, including one that would have stricken language in the indictment that suggests that Stevens accepted gifts and renovations from Veco and its former chief executive, Bill Allen, in exchange for legislative favors for the Alaska-based oil services company.
One of Stevens' three lawyers, Robert Cary, argued that the prosecutors were trying to "stink up the courtroom" with allegations of bribery when there is no evidence of a quid pro quo. In fact, Stevens was just doing his job, Cary argued, by being responsive to an Alaska-based company that employed many state residents.
"There's no great mystery or dispute that Senator Stevens listens to his constituents and he tries to help them," Cary said.
Prosecutors countered that the allegations in the indictment are key to proving their case, which hinges on charges that Stevens lied on his disclosure forms. It helps prove Stevens had a motive to hide information on the forms, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Bottini.
"He knows someone is going to look at that and say, 'Wait a second, he's getting stuff from Veco and Allen and he wrote a letter on their behalf,'" Bottini said, adding that prosecutors will try to prove Stevens knew that if he put the gifts on his disclosure form, he would face consequences.
"Someone's going to look at that and go, 'Ah-ha!'" Bottini said.
Sullivan is expected to issue additional rulings on two key issues leading up to the trial. He will determine whether evidence in the case violates constitutional separations that keep lawmakers from being prosecuted for their legislative actions in the halls of Congress.
Sullivan also will rule on whether prosecutors can introduce a wide array of other evidence to boost their case, including showing that Stevens hid a $31,000 loan from a friend and then parlayed it into $129,250 in real estate gains.
Stevens did not attend Wednesday's hearing. He faces Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, a Democrat, in the Nov. 4 election.
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