Powerful names fill witness list for Stevens trial

Potential witnesses include high-profile senators, Colin Powell

Posted: Tuesday, September 23, 2008

WASHINGTON - Some of U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens' high-profile Senate colleagues could testify in his federal corruption trial, according to a list of more than 200 possible witnesses read Monday to potential jurors on the first day of proceedings.

J. Scott Applewhite / The Associated Press
J. Scott Applewhite / The Associated Press

The potential witnesses include Stevens' longtime friend and fellow World War II veteran, Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, and three other Senate peers: Democrat Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Republican Orrin Hatch of Utah and Democrat Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell also is on the list. It wasn't clear Monday whether the men are witnesses for the defense or the prosecution.

Also on the list: a Fairbanks strip-club manager as well as an underage woman who's alleged to be the former mistress of one of the chief witnesses, Bill Allen, and the Anchorage detective who's investigating the relationship between the two.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan told jurors that many of the witnesses are unlikely to be called to testify; if they all were called, the trial would never end by Election Day. The 84-year-old senator is up for re-election and faces Democrat Mark Begich, the mayor of Anchorage.

Stevens was indicted in late July and asked for an expedited trial so that it could conclude before the election Nov. 4. He faces charges that he took more than $250,000 in labor, materials and furnishings from VECO Corp. and Allen, its former chief executive officer, and didn't report the gifts on his annual Senate disclosure forms. Allen, 71, and VECO are alleged in the indictment to have provided most of the gifts to Stevens, including remodeling Stevens' home in Girdwood.

On Monday, Sullivan issued an order allowing Stevens to duck in and out of the trial if he has Senate business to attend to. It's not clear whether he can leave to campaign in Alaska.

Jury selection is scheduled to last at least another day and the trial is tentatively set to begin Wednesday. Lawyers will winnow down the jury pool from 150 to 12, plus alternates.

After the jury pool was sworn in Monday morning, Sullivan gave the potential jurors a short pep talk on the importance of service and asked the defense team and the Justice Department prosecutors to introduce themselves. His chief counsel, Brendan Sullivan, introduced Stevens, who was referred to by his full first name, Theodore, during the formal parts of the trial.

"Ted, why don't you stand up?" Brendan Sullivan said.

The jurors received 21-page questionnaires seeking general information about their lives and specific knowledge they might have of Congress and Alaska. One of the 66 questions: "What comes to mind when you think of Alaska?"

Lawyers on both sides continued Monday to wrangle over what evidence will be allowed at the trial. The Colorado construction and engineering company that bought VECO is trying to keep from handing over documents sought by Stevens' defense team to try to disparage Allen as a witness.

CH2M HILL, which purchased Alaska-based VECO last year, doesn't want to make public some of the evidence sought by Stevens' attorneys, including documents that show how the new company is cooperating with the federal corruption investigation.

The company's lawyers said in a motion filed Monday that they think Stevens' defense team is conducting a "fishing expedition" for three things: communications between the company and prosecutors concerning the VECO sale, documents that detail whether the company would be prosecuted itself and information that would show whether the company's former executives benefited by cooperating with the federal corruption investigation.

Those executives include Allen, who was convicted of bribing state lawmakers in Alaska but hasn't been sentenced yet. He's expected to be a pivotal witness in the senator's trial. Prosecutors also are expected to introduce FBI recordings of conversations between Allen and Stevens.

Lawyers for CH2M HILL say that they aren't obligated to turn over any of the material requested by Stevens' lawyers, who've already asked the Justice Department for it. Prosecutors haven't turned it over, either, saying that it's irrelevant to their prosecution.

Stevens' lawyers counter that because Allen "apparently conducted numerous illegal activities through VECO, which have led to his conviction and that of several Alaska state officials, CH2M HILL's purchase of VECO could have exposed it to potential criminal indictment."

They want the documents because they hope to show at trial that Allen had a motive to "testify favorably" as a prosecution witness, they wrote.



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