WASHINGTON -- The judge overseeing Sen. Ted Stevens' case laid out the ground rules for the Alaska Republican's Sept. 24 trial, when he'll face felony charges he knowingly took gifts from an oil services company and failed to report them.
Stevens has asked to have the trial moved to Alaska and will have a hearing next week to make that request to U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan. The judge held a short hearing Thursday to outline how the lawyers will pick a jury next month and handle motions in the case.
Stevens, 84, pleaded not guilty last week to seven counts of failing to disclose more than $250,000 in home repairs and gifts that investigators say he received from Bill Allen, the former chief of oil services company Veco Corp.
The trial has an accelerated timetable at Stevens' request. Stevens, who is up for re-election, asked for a speedy trial so he would have the opportunity to clear his name before the Nov. 4 general election.
Stevens also would like to see the trial moved to Alaska. In a motion filed Monday, Stevens argued it would be nearly impossible for him to campaign if the trial isn't moved. Sullivan said he hasn't prejudged the change-of-venue request but said that logistics and the time crunch require he move forward as though the case will be heard in Washington.
"It's going to be fair," Sullivan said. "Let me emphasize that. It's going to be fast but it's going to be fair."
The court needs to begin sending out jury summonses this week to ensure there's a pool of available jurors in time for jury selection, which is set to begin Sept. 22, Sullivan said. Prosecutors with the Justice Department estimate it will take three weeks to present its case against Stevens; his lawyers think they'll need another week to present their case. The prosecution is expected to call 30 to 40 witnesses, said Brenda Morris, the lead Justice Department prosecutor on the case.
Stevens, who is in Alaska campaigning for re-election, did not attend the one-hour hearing. One of his lawyers, Brendan Sullivan, listened in on the phone and another, Robert Cary, was in the courtroom. Stevens is not expected to attend the Aug. 20 change-of-venue hearing either because he will be in Alaska.
Prosecutors handed over discovery materials to Stevens' attorneys Thursday. That evidence includes video and audio recordings and "consensual monitoring," which is when one of the parties to a conversation has agreed to its recording but the other person is unaware. The recorded evidence is expected to play a major part in this trial, much as it has in other corruption cases brought in Alaska over the past year.
Find Erika Bolstad online at adn.com/contact/ebolstad or call her in Washington, D.C., at 202-383-6104.