Judge links Ben Stevens to FBI probe

Son of powerful U.S. senator publicly identified in corruption investigation for the first time

Posted: Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A federal judge has for the first time publicly linked former Alaska Senate President Ben Stevens, son of U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, to the corruption investigation that has been underway since 2004.

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At the same time, a federal prosecutor revealed there are "multiple, ongoing nonpublic investigations" related to the ongoing inquiry into ties between Alaska lawmakers and the oil industry.

Investigations have so far resulted in one criminal conviction, of former state Rep. Tom Anderson, R-Anchorage, and indictments of former Reps. Bruce Weyhrauch, R-Juneau; Pete Kott, R-Eagle River, and Vic Kohring, R-Wasilla.

Weyhrauch and Kott, now a Juneau resident as well, are scheduled to go to trial Sept. 5 in Anchorage.

The Stevens connection turned up in a legal filing in the Weyhrauch case, in which U.S. District Court Judge John Sedwick acknowledged Ben Stevens' role.

Sedwick noted that the identification of Stevens had "already been reported in the press," based on comparing the money paid by former VECO Corp. CEO Bill Allen and Stevens' financial disclosure reports.

The indictments of Weyhrauch and Kott accuse them of having conspired with Allen and an unidentified "State Senator A" to advocate for an oil tax plan supported by VECO, an oil field services company, and the state's oil producers. In other court documents, such as Allen's indictment, Senator A is listed as Senator B.

"The evidence which the United States will present at trial will show that State Senator A is, in fact, Ben Stevens," Sedwick wrote.

Stevens, Weyhrauch, Kott and Kohring were among legislators whose Capitol offices were searched by FBI agents last year. Stevens, who did not run for re-election, has not been indicted. Weyhrauch did not run for re-election either, after two terms representing Juneau.

Kohring and Kott both ran for re-election, with Kott losing and Kohring winning. Kohring resigned his seat last month, after being indicted in May.

Kott's attorneys asked Sedwick to allow them to challenge a search warrant after the deadline for doing so, citing the "massive amount of work" the case required. In opposing that request, federal prosecutors revealed the other investigations.

Prosecutors said they provided recordings of wiretaps in May, giving his lawyers plenty of time to review them or ask for an extension of time to file legal challenges.

They acknowledged they waited until July 24, six weeks before the scheduled trial date, to provided some written materials, but said they met all required deadlines for providing information to the defense.

Prosecutors didn't provide the materials before July 24, they said, because "the materials disclose multiple ongoing, nonpublic investigations."

The government had considered providing Kott with edited versions of the materials earlier, but determined that the redacted versions would not have been meaningful.

Beyond that statement, the prosecutors filings provide no additional detail on the subjects or allegations in those investigations.

Weyhrauch has been trying to have his trial separated from that of Kott, saying that prejudicial evidence against Kott will likely "spill over" and make it more difficult for the jury to assess the allegations against him.

A federal magistrate has advised against separating the two trials, but Douglas Pope, Weyhrauch's attorney, said Monday he'll appeal that to Judge Sedwick.

Pope said he's still expecting to begin the trial with jury selection Sept. 5, however.

• Contact Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.

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