Closing arguments set for today in Anderson trial

Posted: Friday, July 06, 2007

ANCHORAGE - The defense in the federal corruption trial of former state Rep. Tom Anderson rested its case after breezing through a flurry of witnesses Thursday, as it tried to demonstrate Anderson has on numerous occasions voted against legislation his consulting clients asked him to support.

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Both sides were scheduled to present closing arguments Friday.

Defense attorney Paul Stockler gave Thursday what appeared to be a preview of his final statements as lawyers argued routine motions when the jury was out of the courtroom.

He pressed his case for an entrapment defense, saying Anderson never asked for money in exchange for his support in the Legislature and former head of Corrections Frank Prewitt - a government key witness who is under investigation himself - did what he could to escape prosecution.

"It was always Prewitt who tried to tie the two together," he said.

Earlier in the day, Stockler filed a motion to dismiss each of the seven counts Anderson is charged with: single counts of conspiracy and bribery, three counts of money laundering and two counts of interfering with commerce, a charge connected to a demand for payments.

Federal District Court Judge John Sedwick denied the motion, saying there was ample evidence on all counts.

Prosecutors have portrayed Anderson as a man buried in debt who was willing to sell his office to escape. As evidence, they point to the fact that Anderson did not initially disclose consulting money he thought was coming from Cornell Industries, a private prison company, but was in fact coming from the government as part of its investigation.

State Rep. Bob Roses, R-Anchorage, testified that it is not unusual for legislators to work on bills that might pose a conflict of interests to them, even though it shouldn't happen.

"It should be (reported), but it isn't always done," he said. "I can think of a number of sitting legislators right now who have what I consider a conflict of interests."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph W. Bottini asked Roses if he had ever been given "talking points," an allusion to an e-mail written by Prewitt entered into evidence earlier by the government. The e-mail told Anderson what to say in a letter Prewitt requested he write to the corrections commissioner.

"I've never actually had somebody hand me a piece of paper and say here are the talking points," he said.

He also said there was nothing unusual about Prewitt communicating through personal e-mail to Anderson.

Former Anderson Chief of Staff Joshua Applebee said he worked on a Web site prosecutors say was intended to funnel money to Anderson in exchange for his power as a legislator.

Prosecutors say the site was never meant to be legitimate work, a claim they hinged on Prewitt's testimony last week.

Cornell gets all of its Alaska business through government contracts and has no use for advertising on or subscribing to such a site, Prewitt said.

Applebee said he helped work on the project but that he had never heard about Anderson's connections to Cornell. He said there was no point at which he had any reason to doubt the veracity of the site, even after Anderson seemed to let the idea of its creation die.

Federal prosecutors say Anderson conspired with Bill Bobrick, a municipal lobbyist for Cornell, to sell his influence in exchange for $12,828 in bribes from the company.

Bobrick pleaded guilty last month to bribing Anderson.

Prewitt paid Anderson using money provided by RC Consulting, a fictitious company the FBI created for its investigation. Prosecutors say Cornell had no knowledge of the investigation.

In keeping with his theory that Anderson was a friendly guy who simply liked to help people, Stockler called several witnesses to the stand who testified that they had paid Anderson for work he did for them and that he subsequently voted against bills they asked him to support.

Bernadette Bradley, president of Anchorage Cabaret, Hotel, Restaurant and Retailers Association, said her organization employed Anderson as a consultant before he was elected as a representative, but continued to do paid contract work - as much as $7,500 - for the association after his election.

"He knew what was near and dear to our hearts," she said.

Despite that, she said Anderson on at least five separate occasions failed to support legislation her organization asked him to endorse.

James Rowe, executive director for the Alaska Telephone Association, similarly testified that Anderson worked for his organization from September to December 2003 - while he was a legislator - for $5,000 per month.

He said Anderson supported legislation his group opposed, a claim disputed by prosecutor Nicholas A. Marsh, a trial attorney in the Public Integrity Section of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Marsh read to Rowe the minutes from an April 22, 2005, legislative subcommittee meeting in which Rowe said he wanted a bill to pass that would increase 911 emergency fees.

Rowe replied those minutes referred to a different version of the bill.

"We were not happy with it," Rowe said. "That was a compromise."

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