WASHINGTON - A juror who vanished during Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens' corruption trial told the judge Monday she lied about her father dying and flew to California to see horse races.
U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan ordered Marian Hinnant, identified as juror No. 4, to return to court to explain why she disappeared during jury deliberations. Hinnant, 52, brought a stack of handwritten notes with her to the court on Monday along with public defender A.J. Kramer, and told the judge that her father hadn't died and she was at the Breeders' Cup in Arcadia, Calif.
She apologized for lying, and then started a long rambling story about horses, which included references to horse breeding, the Breeders' Cup, drugs, President Ford's son Steven and her condo in Florida being bugged.
"I am thoroughly convinced you would not have been able to continue to deliberate," Sullivan interrupted.
"Can I have a case of my own?" Hinnant asked. Sullivan referred her to Kramer and the federal public defender's office, and excused her from his courtroom.
Outside the courthouse, Hinnant refused to answer questions about whether she was on medication or had been hospitalized. When asked what she thought about Stevens' case, she said: "He didn't do anything any other congressman or senator or governor or president has not done. He was guilty but these other ones are just as guilty if not more guilty."
When asked if she thought Stevens was guilty, she replied: "I didn't say that."
Hinnant told court officials late on Oct. 23 that her father had died and that she had to fly to California the next morning. The judge halted the deliberations, which had begun the day before, to give her a chance to take care of her father's affairs. However, Hinnant refused to return telephone calls from court officials.
Sullivan replaced her on Oct. 27, and the jury convicted Stevens the same day on seven felony counts of lying on Senate documents to hide hundreds of thousands of dollars of gifts and home renovations from a millionaire businessman.
Hinnant, a paralegal who works in the mortgage industry, said she had returned to the District of Columbia on Oct. 27.
Stevens said it is clear Hinnant "lied to the court," and his whole trial was plagued with "unusual occurrences."
"It is now even clearer this was an unjust trial and a flawed verdict," Stevens said. "My defense team will work vigorously in the next few weeks to clear my name."
Stevens, who has represented Alaska in the Senate since 1968, is in a tight race with Democratic challenger Mark Begich, the mayor of Anchorage. He said he is going to appeal his conviction.