WASHINGTON -- In secretly recorded telephone conversations played in court Monday, Sen. Ted Stevens denied wrongdoing and spat out expletives to describe the federal agents who were raiding homes and offices in Alaska as part of a sweeping corruption probe.
"I don't know what the (expletive) these guys are doing, we'll have to figure that out later," Stevens said to Bill Allen, the chief executive of the oilfield services firm, Veco Corp. The jury heard the full-throated Stevens, profanity and all.
But the recordings also provided insight into how Stevens has maintained his presence in Washington and Alaska without shrinking in shame or embarrassment despite the long, public investigation and then his seven-count felony indictment in July.
"You've got to get a mental attitude that these guys can't really hurt us," Stevens told Allen on Oct. 18, 2006, not knowing that Allen had been secretly working for the FBI for nearly two months.
"You know, they're not going to shoot us. It's not Iraq. What the hell? The worst that can be done, the worst that can happen to us is we round up a bunch of legal fees and might lose and we might have to pay a fine, might have to serve a little time in jail. I hope to Christ it never gets to that, and I don't think it will. But I'm developing the attitude that I don't think I did anything wrong so I'm going to go right through my life and keep doing what I think is right."
The three audio recordings, totaling about 30 minutes, were the first played in Stevens' felony disclosure trial, now entering its second full week of testimony. Later this week, prosecutors say they plan to introduce recordings made on wiretaps on Allen's phones before he knew he was a suspect.
The recordings are nothing like the videos in the trials last year, where Allen and another Veco official could be seen reaching for hundred-dollar bills to stuff in the outstretched hands of state legislators, who were later convicted.
Stevens, now 84 and up for re-election, is on trial for taking more than $250,000 in gifts -- chiefly from Veco -- and lying about them on his U.S. Senate financial disclosure forms.
Prosecutors finished their direct examination of Allen at the end of the lunch break Monday, and he was handed over to chief defense counsel Brendan Sullivan. Over three hours of cross-examination, Sullivan tried to chip away at the government's case.
The main theme was Allen acknowledging that Stevens would have paid at least a fair price for much of the work done on his home by Veco -- had Stevens been billed. Allen also told of how some of the things he got for Stevens, like strands of outside house and tree lights for the winter, or big pieces of new and used furniture, were not solicited by Stevens and may not have been wanted.
"You never tried to bribe Sen. Ted Stevens, did you, sir?" asked Sullivan
"No," Allen said.
"You knew you couldn't bribe Sen. Ted Stevens, could you, sir?"
But the charges faced by Stevens were not that he was bribed or that he asked to get something for nothing. Rather, he's charged with failing to report gifts under ethics laws enacted by Congress.
The main effort by the prosecution so far has been to offer evidence that Stevens obtained tens of thousands of dollars of valuable services, materials and useful items from Veco and Allen, and knew about it. The defense so far has been that the government's accounting of those services was overstated, that the gifts weren't wanted, that the work was faulty and that Stevens wasn't given the opportunity to pay.
The first recording played Monday with Allen on the stand was made Aug. 31, 2006. That was the day that the FBI conducted a coordinated series of raids on legislative offices, including the office of Stevens' son, then-state Senate President Ben Stevens. It was also one day after Allen began cooperating with federal authorities.
Allen's call appeared to be the first that Ted Stevens heard of the raids. Allen reached Stevens on his cell phone while he was walking down a hill in San Francisco with his wife, Catherine.
Allen told him the FBI was asking about his "consulting" payments to Ben and Veco's renovations to Stevens' house in Girdwood.
"And I just told them I wouldn't talk to them," Allen lied.
"Yeah, OK. Good," said Stevens. He told Allen he had an "inkling" something was up, but by his descriptions in that conversation and others, seemed to think it was about Veco's campaign contributions, not gifts or, in the case of legislators, bribes.
In the Oct. 18, 2006, call, Stevens told Allen his son, in the last two months of his term, wasn't able to get the investigation out of his mind and it was threatening to affect his family.
"He's got to stop being just so depressed because it'll spring over to the kids. He's going to do all right. When his term finishes, we'll get some funds to help him pay his law firm, his legal fees. But he's got a tough row to hoe," Stevens said.
In the Sept. 10, 2006, call, Stevens said he was also emotionally affected by the investigation.
"Well, I'm not getting much sleep when I think about all this (expletive) that's going down, about four hours a night," Stevens said. "But I'm going to survive. I just can't figure out why these (expletive) are doing this thing to our friends."
Stevens also was equally insistent he broke no laws.
"I don't think we've done anything wrong, Bill, I can tell you right now," Stevens said. "I told my lawyers I can't think of a thing we've done that's wrong."
Allen's testimony, at the center of the trial against Stevens, began last week. The trial nearly derailed Thursday after Stevens' lawyers accused prosecutors of hiding evidence that Allen might have said things that would have helped Stevens win his case. They included notes from an FBI interview in which Allen told the investigator he thought Stevens would have paid a bill had he ever sent him one.
U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan ruled that prosecutors had bungled the disclosure of evidence to the defense, but that there was not enough misconduct to declare a mistrial or throw out the charges.
The trial, on hold over the evidence question, resumed Monday with Allen still on the stand, and he'll be there again this morning for more cross-examination. Before prosecutors played the audio recordings, assistant U.S. Attorney Joe Bottini of Anchorage walked Allen through a series of questions about gifts he'd given Stevens, including furniture, a bed and free labor on repairs to his boiler in 2006.
Allen testified about fixing the boiler in 2006, and how when he got the bill from Chugach Sewer and Drain, he didn't think it was right for Stevens to have to pay the labor costs, since the plumber had initially installed a circulation pump backward. On the invoice, it read "labor paid by Bill."
That caused problems, Allen testified.
"I didn't want that saying that I was going to take care of the labor," he said, saying that he talked to mutual friend of Stevens' and his, Bob Persons, about the invoice. "It's going to be a mess, I didn't want this invoice going around for everybody, like a secretary, and Chugach Sewer and Drain."
Stevens did inquire about the bill, Allen said, but he never gave him it.
But Brendan Sullivan, Stevens' attorney, elicited a slightly different response from Allen when he asked about the same invoice in cross-examination.
"When Ted Stevens saw that notation, on the (parts) bill that he got in Washington, he called your secretary, Linda Croft, and told her to tell you he wanted the full bill, didn't he?" Brendan Sullivan asked.
"Yes," Allen said.
"And your secretary called you and told you exactly what Ted Stevens said, am I correct?"
"Yes," Allen said.
When Allen built his own home and moved out of an apartment, he filled several rooms of Stevens' home with his old furniture. Allen, a tall, big man, had large, comfortable living room furniture that overwhelmed the Girdwood home, Allen acknowledged under questioning as monitors around the courtroom displayed a particularly wide chair.
"You're not an interior decorator?" Sullivan asked.
"No," said Allen.
"Did they tell you he (Stevens) couldn't sit in the chair because his feet didn't touch the ground?"
"No, they were too polite," Allen said.
Sullivan also asked him about whether Stevens insisted on paying his share when they dined together, and whether the senator reimbursed Allen when he flew on a Veco charter. He also brought up the racehorse stake the two had with other partners.
"Isn't it true that with respect to those little ventures you had, Ted Stevens always insisted on paying all of them money that was properly his share?"
"Yes," Allen said.
Stevens' lawyer also asked Allen whether he had told FBI agents that Stevens would have paid a bill if he sent him an invoice. "I had no idea how much, but if it had been an invoice that was fair, I think Ted would have paid it," he said.
The awkward question-and-answer session was slowed as Allen complained of having difficulty hearing through the voice-amplification system he was using. He also sparred with Brendan Sullivan.
"You're not going to get me mad, are you?" Allen said.
"No," Sullivan said, adding that Allen would know if he were trying to provoke him.
"You're not going to get me mad," Allen said, smiling.
But Judge Sullivan was suspicious about Allen's demeanor. With the jury still in, he pointed to a lawyer in the front row of the spectator's section, Robert Bundy of Anchorage, and said he saw him signaling to Allen and demanded at once that he stop. A marshal moved to the aisle one row behind Bundy and stood there till the next recess.
With the jury gone but the room still filled with lawyers, reporters and other spectators, Sullivan demanded Bundy, Allen's attorney, identify himself. Sullivan threatened Bundy with a contempt citation and an ouster from the courtroom.
"It's entirely inappropriate, I can't imagine an attorney doing that," the judge said, adding later, "It's clear to me what I saw. It's really disturbing."
Bottini, who is an assistant U.S. attorney in Anchorage, vouched for Bundy and said he had known him for years. He "would be quite surprised if that was an intentional gesture on his part," Bottini said. It didn't appear Allen was looking at Bundy at the time.
Outside of the courtroom, Stevens' lawyers continued to hammer at Allen's credibility as a witness, filing a second motion late Sunday asking the judge to declare a mistrial. This time, they accused the prosecutors of deliberate misconduct and said they've manipulated Allen to elicit the testimony most damaging to Stevens.
Judge Sullivan will hold a hearing today or Wednesday on the new request for a mistrial.