WASHINGTON — Even as Sen. Ted Stevens' corruption trial nears an end, federal prosecutors are still asking for correspondence between the Alaska senator and his wife, Catherine, as well as e-mails she may have sent to 37 people connected to the couple's home renovation and other gifts the senator may have received.
Stevens' legal team filed a motion over the weekend asking that a judge intervene and prohibit the government from subpoenaing thousands of documents from Catherine Stevens' law firm, Mayer Brown. They're looking for conversations between her and anyone with a U.S. Senate e-mail address, as well as documents relating to any thing of value given or provided to Stevens, his wife or his daughter, Lily. That includes "any documents relating to diamond earrings," according to the motion.
But Stevens' legal team is reluctant to turn them over, accusing prosecutors of going on a fishing expedition and saying in their motion that a "more oppressive, non-specific subpoena could hardly be imagined."
The 84-year-old senator is on trial for lying on the Senate financial disclosure forms he's required to file each year. He's charged with accepting gifts and home renovations worth more than $250,000, chiefly from Veco Corp. and its former chief executive, Bill Allen, who was the star witness for the prosecution.
The renovations in 2000 and 2001 doubled the size of the Stevens' home in Girdwood, transforming it from a small, A-frame cabin into a two-story retreat with multiple decks, a Jacuzzi tub and a Viking outdoor grill. Prosecutors have been laying out a case that much of the work, including the decks as well as plumbing and a complete electrical overhaul, was paid for by Veco.
Stevens' trial, which will begin its fourth week on Monday, is in the midst of the defense phase. Prosecutors rested their case last week, and his defense team began building a case that the senator was unaware that the renovations in question may have exceeded what he spent on it, an estimated $160,000. Several character witnesses, including former secretary of state Colin Powell, have also testified on Stevens' behalf.
Stevens' attorneys asked to quash the subpoena over the weekend after one of the prosecutors, Edward Sullivan, sent an e-mail asking for the documents the government had requested.
According to the filing, last year prosecutors asked for and received more than 26,000 pages of documents from Catherine Stevens' law firm. But the law firm didn't turn over communications between Catherine Stevens and her husband because "communications between a husband and a wife are protected by the spousal privilege," according to the filing.
Prosecutors asked for the documents again on Sept. 15, just a week before jury selection began in the case.
The law firm did a search and handed over three discs containing thousands of e-mails to Stevens' defense team in early October, according to the filing. They reviewed them in search of privileged conversations between husband and wife and found none, but also found "no relevant ones," wrote one of Stevens' lawyers, Joseph Terry. The first 100 e-mails are about nothing more than "the recent death of Mrs. Stevens's mother; Lily Stevens's wedding; and grave illnesses of personal friends."
Prosecutors on Friday night asked again for the e-mails, prompting Stevens lawyers to file a motion asking the judge to keep them from getting them.
The trial, on break Monday for the Columbus Day holiday, is scheduled to resume Tuesday morning.