State Sen. John Cowdery's trial on federal corruption charges has been pushed back until Jan. 12, 2009.
It had been set to start Oct. 6.
Cowdery's attorney, Kevin Fitzgerald, asked for a delay to have time to review volumes of FBI surveillance recordings the government turned over to the defense. Prosecutors, part of the team trying the case later this month against U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, also wanted to push back the trial.
U.S. District Judge Ralph Beist-line approved the new trial date Friday.
The materials turned over by prosecutors include "approximately 11 months of ... wire tap interceptions from multiple telephone lines, numerous months of separately authorized ... video and audio interceptions, and other electronic evidence," assistant U.S. attorney James Goeke wrote in a motion last week.
"The amount we've received in this case I would characterize as staggering," Fitzgerald told Beistline on Friday, according to a recording of a hearing on the case status.
The index to the materials alone is 600 pages, with 40 to 50 entries on each page, some referring to hours-long secretly made recordings.
"The index is 600 pages?" Beistline asked.
"Yes," Fitzgerald said.
"Holy moly," the judge responded.
Cowdery is charged with conspiracy and bribery. He's accused of scheming with Veco Corp. executives in 2006 to buy the vote of another senator in the battle for an oil tax favored by North Slope oil producers. The other senator isn't named in court papers but Fitzgerald previously has said it was Donny Olson, a Democrat from Nome running for lieutenant governor in 2006. According to the charges, Cowdery and others conspired in 2006 to give the senator $25,000, characterized as campaign contributions. Olson has been cooperating with the investigation. He never got the money.
It's likely that much of the evidence doesn't relate directly to Cowdery's case but was gathered in the course of the multifaceted, ongoing federal investigation into corruption of Alaska politicians.
So far, three state legislators have been convicted by juries and are serving prison sentences. Cowdery, Stevens and a state representative are awaiting trial. Five people, including former Veco Corp. executives Bill Allen and Rick Smith, have pleaded guilty.
The FBI put a wiretap on Smith's cell phone in September 2005 and branched out from there to wiretaps on Allen's cell and home phones. It also secretly recorded video and audio of what occurred in Suite 604 of Juneau's Baranof hotel, Veco's Juneau hangout.
Fitzgerald told Beistline he was trying to get prosecutors to provide a more descriptive index that includes at least the names of the people being recorded so that he can separate out what's important. The index he received just has dates.
The defense lawyer also wants transcripts of key recordings. For instance, an FBI recording from a June 25, 2006, breakfast meeting with Cowdery, Allen and Olson, is almost indecipherable, Fitzgerald said.
Goeke, the prosecutor, said that the government isn't required to provide an index because that's considered "work product," but now that the trial has been delayed, it could do that, and provide the transcripts, too.
The trial of Cowdery is likely to take two to three weeks, Fitzgerald told the judge.
Find Lisa Demer online at adn.com/contact/ldemer or call 257-4390.