Anderson case likely to get to jury today

DEFENSE: Lawyers say ex-lawmaker was duped by FBI; he doesn't testify.

July 6, 2007 

On June 13, 2005, an FBI agent left a message on then-state Rep. Tom Anderson's cell phone asking for his views on an upcoming federal appointment because he had been such a friend of law enforcement in the past.

But when Anderson showed up at the FBI building in downtown Anchorage the next day, he discovered that was just a ploy. He was the target of an undercover FBI investigation.

Huge blown-up pictures from a five-hour-long Prince William Sound sailing trip on the boat of Cornell Cos. consultant Frank Prewitt were on the wall. Agents played secretly made recordings of his conversations with Prewitt and lobbyist Bill Bobrick.

The agents wanted to get Anderson to cooperate in its ongoing corruption investigation. And for a time he did, prosecutors said.

The defense in Anderson's corruption trial wrapped up Thursday after five quick witnesses. The case is expected to go to the jury today after closing arguments. Anderson is charged with seven federal felonies, including bribery, extortion and money laundering.

Defense lawyer Paul Stockler maintained that Anderson never took any legislative actions for money. He tried to portray Anderson as a man who had no inclination to do anything shady but was lured in to doing questionable things by the FBI.

Anderson didn't take the stand. After court ended for the day on Thursday, Anderson said he trusted Stockler's judgment in directing his defense. With the case about to go to the jury, he said he felt anxious but didn't want to say much.

Earlier in the trial, Bobrick testified that he created a business that was supposed to produce a Web site about Alaska politics. But he told jurors that it ultimately became a sham used to funnel illegal payments from Prewitt to Anderson. Prosecutors assert that the money was used to get the legislator to do Cornell's bidding on halfway houses, a juvenile treatment center and a private prison. Though Anderson was supposed to have produced material for the Web site, witnesses have testified that he never did.

Bobrick has pleaded guilty and Prewitt worked undercover for the FBI, making recordings "as a cooperating witness."

Both sides suffered setbacks on Thursday. Two witnesses for Anderson weren't allowed to testify that he had approached them about the Web site.

And prosecutors lost their effort to bar an entrapment defense. Prosecutor Nick Marsh said they were never put on notice about it and there's no evidence Anderson was lured in.

But U.S. District Judge John Sedwick said, "It takes very little evidence to entitle a defendant to an entrapment defense." The judge said if he didn't allow it, and Anderson were convicted, he might appeal on grounds that he had "ineffective assistance of counsel."

Stockler said he didn't bring entrapment up earlier because he learned more about it during the trial, in particular how the FBI was steering the conversations and interactions Prewitt and others were having with Anderson.

AGENT TESTIFIES

One of the defense witnesses was the FBI case agent, Mary Beth Kepner, who has sat beside prosecutors throughout the trial. No FBI agents testified for the government.

With jurors out of the room, Stockler told Sedwick that he expected Kepner to say that the FBI told Anderson in that June 2005 meeting to stop working on the Web site. That would explain why Anderson hadn't written articles or done other demonstrable work in exchange for the $25,838 witnesses said was paid to him.

But that's not what Kepner told jurors a few minutes later.

When asked by Stockler, Kepner testified that the FBI didn't tell Anderson to stop working on the site.

Why the ruse to get Anderson to meet with the FBI at that June meeting? prosecutor Marsh asked Kepner.

The FBI wanted to gain Anderson's cooperation in its ongoing corruption investigation and didn't want to blow its "covert status," Kepner told the jury.

Stockler also wanted to question Kepner about secret recordings that were not used by the prosecution, to show that they contained no evidence that Anderson was corrupt.

But, with the jury out of the room, the judge said that would be like someone going into a 7-Eleven store hundreds of times and only robbing it once -- all that matters at trial is whether the robbery happened.

"The government isn't on trial," Sedwick told Stockler.

The defense lawyer disagreed. The worst thing Anderson did was ask for consulting work, he said.

CLIENTS SUPPORT ANDERSON

Stockler called two of Anderson's former consulting clients on Thursday, asking them whether he voted their way in the Legislature after they paid him for consulting work.

No, said Bernadette Bradley, owner of The Bradley House restaurant and bar in South Anchorage and president of the hospitality trade group Anchorage Cabaret, Hotel, Restaurant and Retailers Association, or Anchorage CHARR.

In fact, she testified that Anderson -- the group's executive director before he took office and a sometimes consultant while in the Legislature -- voted against the group's interests a number of times. For instance, he supported legislation lowering the legal limit of blood alcohol content for driving.

The answer was not as clear cut regarding the Alaska Telephone Association, which paid Anderson $20,000 in 2003, mainly with the hope that he'd end up better educated on telephone issues, according to James Rowe, the organization's executive director. Anderson and the association both ended up supporting the same bill raising fees charged for 911 services. The association was glad the increase wasn't even higher, Rowe testified.

Also testifiying for Anderson: his legislative aide Josh Applebee, who worked on the Web site, and state Rep. Bob Roses, who replaced him in the Legislature.

In early 2005, Applebee was Anderson's chief of staff. He said he worked after hours to identify contacts in communities all around Alaska who might write stories for the site. By March, he needed direction from Anderson on how to proceed. That never happened, he acknowledged.


Find Lisa Demer online at adn.com/contact/ldemer or call 257-4390.

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