Stevens supporters, staff join wait for a verdict

Alaska senator's fate left up to 8 women and 4 men

October 23, 2008 

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Ted Stevens' fate is now in the hands of jurors.

"The case is yours," U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan told them just before lunch Wednesday.

The jury returned to Sullivan's court at 4:25 p.m. Sullivan said they had sent a note. He said they wanted to leave early. "Kind of stressful right now," he said, reading from the note. "We need a minute of clarity right now."

No problem, Sullivan said. "Of course I will let you go," he said.

The judge earlier said he would normally dismiss jurors for the day at 4:45 p.m. They start at 9:30 a.m. and have an hour for lunch.

It took Sullivan one hour and 20 minutes to read through 81 pages of instructions to the jury on how to apply the law to the evidence they heard. They must decide whether Stevens, 84, is guilty of deliberately submitting false public statements about his personal finances covering the years 2000 to 2006.

The first of seven counts accuses Stevens of scheming to cover up false filings, while the other six charge him directly with lying on the Senate forms for failing to disclose gifts and benefits in excess of the Senate gift limits. Those limits ranged from $260 in 2000 to $305 in 2006.

The charges are all felonies.

Over 15 days of testimony in his trial here, prosecutors presented evidence that Stevens received some $250,000 in gifts and services from a group of close friends, especially former Veco chairman Bill Allen. Allen, who pleaded guilty to bribing Alaska legislators and is awaiting sentencing, was the government's chief witness.

The defense said Stevens was unaware of Veco's role in the renovations to his home in Girdwood. As for the other alleged gifts, Stevens said he didn't want them, didn't know where they came from, thought they were paid by his wife, or were not as valuable as the government asserted.

Each felony count carries a punishment of up to five years in federal prison, although jurors are forbidden from considering potential punishment when they decide the senator's guilt or innocence.

THE JURY

The outcome of the jury's decision may well affect Stevens' fate at the polls. On Nov. 4, he faces Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, a Democrat, and three other candidates. Stevens has been in the courtroom for the past month as the campaign has gone on without him in Alaska.

Sullivan dismissed the four alternate jurors, but admonished them to not talk about the case on the outside chance that they may be called back if something happens to one of the remaining 12.

The alternates were randomly selected at the start of the trial, but their identities were known only to the judge, his staff, and the parties. Two of the alternates hugged as they left the courtroom Wednesday.

That left a jury even less diverse than before: a mostly middle aged group of eight women and four men. By appearances, 10 seem to be African American, one white, and one Hispanic.

In his instructions, Sullivan told the jurors that they may consider the five character witnesses they heard in determining the senator's guilt. The role of character witnesses is so important in a case based on Stevens' truthfulness that their testimony alone can be considered to raise a reasonable doubt of guilt in the minds of jurors.

Sullivan also cautioned them about Allen, the star witness in the trial and a former close friend of the senator. Many of the gifts Stevens is accused of accepting, including bbhome renovations valued at more than $100,000, came from Allen or Veco.

Witnesses who have entered into plea agreements are under the same obligation to tell the truth as any other witness, the judge said, adding that Allen's guilty plea to bribing state lawmakers in Alaska has no connection to this case.

"Those charges have nothing to do with Sen. Stevens," Sullivan said.

STRICKEN EVIDENCE

It's up to jurors to weigh Allen's biases and interests against those of other witnesses who testified in the trial, Sullivan said.

Jurors are allowed to consider several other alleged acts as evidence of motive, although Stevens wasn't charged with any crimes in connection with those acts. They include accepting a loan from a friend for a real estate deal and failing to report it, asking Allen to help his son and grandson find jobs and accepting a generator from Allen.

Those acts may be considered for "proof of motive, intent, opportunity, preparation, plan, knowledge, or absence of mistake or accident," Sullivan said.

The judge reminded jurors of the evidence he has stricken: all testimony about a car trade that Allen made with Stevens for Stevens' daughter, Lily; evidence showing how much Veco paid two Veco workers, Rocky Williams and Dave Anderson, during the time that they worked on Stevens' home; and a gift bag and shotgun that Stevens received from the Kenai River Sport Fishing Association and a punching bag and frame he got from Veco.

The car and the time records had originally been struck early in the trial following sharp complaints by the defense and a rebuke by the judge that prosecutors had failed to provide evidence to the defense. But the language in the instructions laid no blame for why the evidence wasn't to be considered.


THE VERDICT: Sign up for our breaking-news alerts to get the jury's decision sent to your inbox as it happens.

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The Stevens trial jury

Here are thumbnail sketches of each of the 12 jurors and four alternates selected in the Stevens trial. It was not announced which ones are the alternates. The information is drawn from answers to questions by the judge and attorneys in the case. The number is their jury seat number.

THE JURY

JUROR #1 FEMALE: A third-grade teacher with 21 kids in her class and with two brothers in law enforcement.

JUROR #2 MALE: Works in Georgetown University Medical Center at a command center, compares it to being an air traffic controller. Has been a witness to crime, such as seeing people smoke marijuana, but has never testified at a trial.

JUROR #3 FEMALE: Works at an agency that does statistical reports on wiretaps, but doesn't listen to them. Served on a grand jury once.

JUROR #4 FEMALE: A licensed paralegal, works for a mortgage company on bankruptcy issues. Initially thought a defendant should testify, but said she understood why that's not a requirement after the judge instructed her in the 5th Amendment guarantee.

JUROR #5 FEMALE: Studying sociology but doesn't expect to get a degree for four or five years. Has a family member in a state legislature. Had trouble twice with contractors at her home.

JUROR #7 FEMALE: Soft spoken. Has a family member in law enforcement, has been a juror in criminal court.

JUROR #8 FEMALE: Has a background in finance and economics and does management analysis for the Navy, negotiating project costs on bases. Works with Congress, but just by way of documents, not live contacts. Served as a juror before. Has had a problem with home repair -- someone was almost killed because of shoddy work on her house, and she's suing the contractor.

JUROR #9 FEMALE: Does bookkeeping and disbursements for the National Guard. Works with Congressional funding.

JUROR #10 MALE: Works in the retail store at the Newseum, the downtown journalism museum. Cousin who was in a gang is in prison.

JUROR #12 FEMALE: Receptionist and administrative assistant with a professional medical association. Deals with her organization's lobbyists and reads the specialty Capitol Hill journals lying around the office. Has relatives in law enforcement and initially said she would give more weight to the testimony of an officer, but later agreed to follow the judge's instructions to treat them like other witnesses.

JUROR #14 MALE: Works for a drug rehabilitation agency. Has been a grand juror and served as a juror once before Judge Sullivan, who is hearing Sen. Stevens' case. Has a family member who works for the Metropolitan Washington Police Department. Identified by the judge Wednesday as the foreman.

JUROR #16 MALE: Served as a juror this year in Superior Court in Washington. Works at downtown office buildings in Washington, but didn't say in what capacity.

ALTERNATES

JUROR #6 FEMALE: Has a job where she works with public. Has friends who are ex-cops, and a friend who's a lawyer. Served on jury, where she was upset that one juror tried to hurry deliberations because she was leaving on vacation. Also served on a grand jury.

JUROR #11 FEMALE: Familiar with Web site technology and runs her church's site on the Internet. Served on a jury in May.

JUROR #13 MALE: Comes from a family of strong Republican conservatives who support Sarah Palin, and he briefly joined a college Republican group, but said he has since modified his views and went to Baltimore to see Barack Obama at a rally. "Politics-wise, I have no idea where I stand -- I'm still trying to figure it out."

JUROR #15 FEMALE: A tennis player who's employed, but on extended leave. She's a first-time juror with a family member in law enforcement.


Verdict form

In the case of the United States of America v. Theodore F. Stevens the jury must decide on:

COUNT I: False Statements - Scheme

Not guilty Guilty

COUNT II: False Statements - 2001 Senate Financial Disclosure Form

Not guilty Guilty

COUNT III: False Statements - 2002 Senate Financial Disclosure Form

Not guilty Guilty

COUNT IV: False Statements - 2003 Senate Financial Disclosure Form

Not guilty Guilty

COUNT V: False Statements - 2004 Senate Financial Disclosure Form

Not guilty Guilty

COUNT VI: False Statements - 2005 Senate Financial Disclosure Form

Not guilty Guilty

COUNT VII: False Statements - 2006 Senate Financial Disclosure Form

Not guilty Guilty

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