WASHINGTON - The attorney representing Bill Allen, the star witness in Sen. Ted Stevens' corruption trial, was scolded further Tuesday morning by the judge overseeing the case.Anchorage attorney Robert Bundy, who has been sitting in the spectator section of the courtroom in Washington while his client has been testifying, was accused Monday by the judge of trying to signal to Allen on the stand and help him answer questions from a defense attorney.
"I couldn't believe what I was seeing," U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan said Tuesday morning, in something of a sideshow before the trial began for the day. "That's borderline obstruction of justice."
Bundy's colleague, Creighton Magid, said Tuesday morning that the Anchorage lawyer and former U.S. attorney is "absolutely torn up by this" and "vehemently" denied signaling to his client.
Monday, at the close of proceedings but with the jury still in the courtroom, Judge Sullivan pointed to Bundy, said he saw him signaling to Allen, and demanded he stop. A marshal moved to the aisle one row behind Bundy and waited there until the next recess.
With the jury gone but the room still filled with lawyers, reporters and other spectators, Judge Sullivan demanded that Bundy identify himself. The judge also threatened Bundy with a contempt citation and an ouster from the courtroom.
Judge Sullivan raised the matter again Tuesday morning, asking for Bundy to appear in the courtroom, but he was not there. Magid spoke on Bundy's behalf and also said he would represent Allen's interest in court today.
Stevens' chief lawyer, Brendan Sullivan, said he wasn't planning to say anything about what his own team had seen the day before, but since the judge had brought it up, he would. Stevens' personal lawyer, Bob Phillips, told one of the lawyers on the defense team Monday that he also had observed some sort of communication between Bundy in the courtroom and Allen on the stand, Sullivan said in court Tuesday.
"He was so distressed at what he saw, that he got up and signaled one of our young lawyers to mention what had happened," Brendan Sullivan said.
Stevens' lawyer also said that he received a call Monday night from Magid, asking him whether he objected to Bundy being in the courtroom during Allen's testimony. Brendan Sullivan told the judge that he told Magid on Monday night that he didn't want Bundy in the courtroom.
But prosecutors vouched for Bundy, calling him a "stellar" attorney. The accusations by the defense were just another "scurrilous" attempt to stir up trouble in the case and smear Bundy's name, said the chief prosecutor, Brenda Morris. It will be in Alaska newspapers now, Morris said, and will open up Bundy to the kind of hate mail she's received from people in the state.
Magid, too, said he was concerned that it had already been mentioned in the Anchorage Daily News. His colleague is an honorable former federal prosecutor who sits on the ethics committee of the Alaska Bar Association, Magid said.
"To have shots taken at Mr. Bundy and him not in the position to defend himself, I think is fundamentally unfair," Magid said.
That's true, Judge Sullivan acknowledged. The judge also conceded it was also possible that "maybe he was shaking his head in disbelief at something else."
Later this morning, when cross-examination of Allen resumed in the courtroom, Brendan Sullivan asked Allen whether he had seen Bundy in the courtroom Monday, and asked whether Allen saw him nodding his head when he gave certain answers.
"No," Allen said, "no, he did not do that."
Judge Sullivan said he didn't want the issue to be a distraction from the trial, but also said he wasn't content to let the issue rest and may ask for some sort of statement from the other attorney who witnessed the signals. He refused on Tuesday to rule out any sanctions.
Contact the reporters: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.