Sen. Stevens corruption case in hands of jurors

Published 2:05 pm Thursday, October 23, 2008

Sen. Ted Stevens’ fate is in the hands of a jury. And the outcome of one of the tightest and most closely watched Senate races in the nation may hang in the balance.

“The case is yours,” U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan told the eight women and four men shortly before noon Wednesday.

Stevens, 84, is charged with lying on Senate financial disclosure forms about $250,000 in home renovations and other gifts he received from his friend, millionaire oil contractor Bill Allen.

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The longest-serving Senate Republican, Stevens is counting on a speedy verdict that will send him back to Alaska vindicated in time for Election Day. He is locked in a tight race with Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, a Democrat.

Democrats, who are hoping to capture a filibuster-proof Senate majority, have jumped at the chance to seize a seat that Stevens has held for 40 years. They have invested heavily in the race, running television advertisements starring fictional FBI agents and featuring excerpts from wiretaps.

The monthlong trial revealed that employees of oil services company VECO Corp. transformed the senator’s house from a small mountain A-frame into a handsome, two-story house with wraparound porches.

Stevens says he paid every bill he received and had no idea he was getting anything for free.

He has continued his campaign throughout the trial, though he’s been tethered to a courtroom while Begich has had Alaska to himself. Stevens has said he intends to be acquitted and win re-election and has given no indication that he has a contingency plan in case he’s convicted.

Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said the outcomes of the election and the trial are linked.

“If the trial comes to a conclusion and, as he believes, that he is found innocent, I think that he will win that election up there,” Ensign said Tuesday. “If it goes the other way, obviously it really won’t matter what happens in the election.”