WASHINGTON -- Even as Sen. Ted Stevens' trial approaches a likely end this week, federal prosecutors are still attempting to gather more evidence, including correspondence between the Alaska senator and his wife, Catherine, as well as e-mails she may have sent to 34 others about their home renovation and gifts the senator may have received.
The federal subpoena to Catherine Stevens' law firm, dated Sept. 15, became public over the weekend when Stevens' legal team asked the judge in the case to prevent the government from obtaining thousands of documents from the law firm, Mayer Brown.
Prosecutors are also looking for communications between her and anyone with a U.S. Senate e-mail address, as well as documents relating to anything of value given or provided to Stevens, his wife or his daughter, Lily. That includes "any documents relating to diamond earrings," according to the motion.
But Stevens' defense team doesn't want them turned over, accusing prosecutors of going on a fishing expedition and saying in their motion that a "more oppressive, non-specific subpoena could hardly be imagined."
The 84-year-old senator is on trial for lying on the Senate financial disclosure forms he's required to file each year. He's charged with accepting gifts and home renovations worth more than $250,000, chiefly from Veco Corp. and its former chief executive, Bill Allen, who was the star witness for the prosecution.
The renovations in 2000 and 2001 doubled the size of the Stevens' home in Girdwood, transforming it from a small, A-frame cabin into a two-story retreat with multiple decks, a Jacuzzi tub and a Viking outdoor grill. Prosecutors have been laying out a case that much of the work, including the decks as well as plumbing and a complete electrical overhaul, was paid for by Veco.
TRIAL IN DEFENSE PHASE
Stevens' trial, about to begin its fourth week, is in the midst of the defense phase. Prosecutors rested their case last week and his defense team began building a case that the senator was unaware that the renovations in question may have exceeded what he spent on it, an estimated $160,000. Several character witnesses, including former secretary of state Colin Powell, have also testified on Stevens' behalf.
Stevens' attorneys asked to quash the subpoena over the weekend after one of the prosecutors, Edward Sullivan, sent an e-mail asking for the documents the government had requested.
According to the filing, last year, prosecutors asked for and received more than 26,000 pages of documents from Catherine Stevens' law firm. But the law firm didn't turn over communications between Catherine Stevens and her husband because spouses are generally protected by law from having to provide evidence against each other in criminal case, according to the filing.
Prosecutors asked for the documents again on Sept. 15, just a week before jury selection began in the case.
The law firm did a search and handed over three discs containing thousands of e-mails to Stevens' defense team in early October, according to the filing. They reviewed them in search of privileged conversations between husband and wife and found none, but also found "no relevant ones," wrote one of Stevens' lawyers, Joseph Terry. The first 100 e-mails are about nothing more than "the recent death of Mrs. Stevens's mother; Lily Stevens' wedding; and grave illnesses of personal friends."
Prosecutors on Friday night asked again for the e-mails, prompting Stevens lawyers to file a motion asking the judge to keep them from getting them.
NEW NAMES EMERGE
The government's subpoena also lists some names that haven't come up before in the case, including Anchorage jeweler George Walton and his Alaska Gold and Diamond Co. and New York socialite Marylou Whitney and her husband, John Hendrickson, formerly from Alaska. Whitney and Hendrickson have been involved in the horse business with Stevens.
Also listed was Anchorage real estate developer Jon Rubini and one of his companies, Centerpoint LLC, in which Stevens was once an investor.
Stevens' lawyers also filed a motion Sunday night asking the judge to strike references to "the public's right to know" when it comes to disclosure of financial information.
"Any such public interest is irrelevant to the charges in this case, which are and must be based on alleged false statements to the government, not the public at large," Stevens' lawyers wrote. "The government obviously wishes to inflame the jury with assertions that the defendant has injured the public at large -- including the jurors themselves -- by supposedly depriving the populace of important information. This inflammatory suggestion should not be permitted."
Earlier, the defense successfully blocked the government from using the testimony of an advocate of public disclosure, Kent Cooper, about how disclosures are used by the media, public advocacy groups and the public at large.
The trial, on break today for the federal Columbus Day holiday, is scheduled to resume Tuesday morning.