WASHINGTON - FBI agents taped more than 100 phone conversations involving Sen. Ted Stevens as part of their public corruption investigation, Stevens' attorneys said Tuesday.
The FBI's trove of secretly recorded conversations has already been the highlight of trials in Alaska, but the size of its collection against Stevens has until now been unclear. The sometimes-graphic conversations between hard-drinking oil contractors and corrupt Alaska politicians helped the Justice Department send three state politicians to prison.
The calls involving Stevens could be played in court later this month when the Senate's longest-serving Republican stands trial on charges of lying about hundreds of thousands of dollars in home renovations and other gifts he received from an oil contractor.
The FBI did not tap Stevens' phone but did tap several phones belonging to contractors in the case. Out of 2,800 intercepted phone conversations, Stevens was recorded 105 times, his attorneys wrote in court documents.
Though Stevens is not charged with bribery, prosecutors want jurors to hear about a close relationship with Stevens and VECO founder Bill Allen. They want to portray Allen as an influence-peddler with a direct line into Stevens' office. Phone conversations between the two men could help that case.
His attorneys began laying the groundwork for a future argument that those calls should not be admitted into evidence. FBI agents can only tape conversations related to people or topics named in a warrant. The Justice Department did not name Stevens as a wiretapping target, his attorneys wrote, "yet it appears to have targeted his phone calls."
Stevens' attorneys object to the government's plan to present evidence that Stevens not only accepted gifts and services from VECO but also used his Senate seat to help the company's interests.
"The government obviously wishes to import the stench of a bribery prosecution into a case that is nothing of the sort," attorney Robert M. Cary wrote.