Stevens witness says testimony wasn't true

November 21, 2008 

A key prosecution witness in the trial of Sen. Ted Stevens has told the trial judge that some of his testimony wasn't true and that he suspects prosecutors left him in a room with evidence and grand jury transcripts so he could surreptitiously refresh his memory about six-year-old events.

The witness is David Anderson, a nephew and once-trusted employee of former Veco chief executive Bill Allen, the government's star witness and a convicted briber. Anderson made his comments to U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan of Washington, D.C., in a letter dated Nov. 15 and made public Friday, the latest twist in a case with no shortage of unusual events.

In his letter, Anderson also said the government lied in a letter to Stevens' defense attorneys in which it described an affidavit he signed March 25. The government told the defense that Anderson himself had acknowledged the March affidavit was false.

A copy of the March affidavit, made public by defense attorneys Friday, showed that Anderson had asserted that government agents promised immunity to him and 12 other friends and relatives, including former state Sen. Jerry Ward, for cooperating in the FBI's investigation of public corruption in Alaska.

Ward has not been charged with wrongdoing, but he has surfaced in connection with the recent guilty plea by private prison advocate Bill Weimar. Ward appeared to be the beneficiary of an illegal $20,000 campaign contribution by Weimar, who was sentenced to six months in prison last week for making the payment. The recipient of Weimar's illegal $20,000 payment was identified in charging documents only as "Candidate A," but the description matched Ward.

For the past few months, Ward has not responded to phone calls or messages seeking comment on the allegations. He again didn't reply to an e-mail sent to him Friday.

MURDER PLOT ALLEGED

In the March 25 affidavit, Anderson said he had learned that he was targeted in a murder plot. He said he prepared the document to ensure his alleged deal with prosecutors would live on even if he didn't.

He didn't name the plotters in the affidavit, but did in the letter to Sullivan: Allen and his son, Mark, Anderson's cousin.

Bill Allen has testified he never tried or threatened to kill Anderson.

Stevens' attorneys demanded a hearing be held to look into the matter. In a court filing Friday, they said the Anderson letter was new evidence of government misconduct in the case. They've already said they planned to try to overturn Stevens' conviction on Oct. 27 of lying on Senate disclosure forms.

Most of the $250,000 the government alleged he failed to report were gifts from Veco and Allen. Anderson supervised the Veco-paid construction that doubled the size of Stevens' home in Girdwood, then fabricated an outdoor steel deck and stairs and helped build a deck for the home, none of which Stevens paid for.

Government prosecutors responded Friday that Anderson's letter, "simply put," is untrue. They said defense lawyers had ample opportunity to question Anderson about the March affidavit when he was on the witness stand, but chose not to.

Anderson didn't recant any of the his substantive testimony against Stevens, but his letter could cast doubt on his credibility as a witness. And during the trial, the judge rebuked prosecutors for not turning over evidence to the defense as they were required. Anderson's assertion that the government gave false information about him to the defense raises more questions about the prosecution's conduct, though it's unclear how significant they are.

‘GENTLEMAN'S AGREEMENT'

In the March affidavit, the main subject of Anderson's Nov. 15 letter to the judge, Anderson said he agreed to cooperate with the government on condition that prosecutors grant immunity to Ward and his wife Margaret, Ward's three daughters and their husbands, Anderson's mother and son, and several others who couldn't be identified. Anderson lives with one of Ward's daughters, Kirsten Deacon. She was once Bill Allen's girlfriend and that fact is the cause of much of the friction between uncle and nephew, Anderson has said.

Anderson was the last prosecution witness in the government case. In his testimony on Oct. 9, Anderson said the affidavit was false and that no formal pledge of immunity was granted.

"It was kind of a gentlemen's agreement, you know," Anderson testified. "A handshake, you know, so, you know, I take it as an immunity, but it was never - that was never said."

On Sept. 9, two weeks before the trial, the government sent a letter to the defense disclosing facts about the government's case that could be beneficial to Stevens. One paragraph of the five-page letter concerned the March affidavit, which prosecutors said was drafted by Ward. "Anderson felt pressured to sign the affidavit because of his relationship with Ward's daughter," the prosecutors told the defense. In reality, Anderson admitted that "he and the other individuals mentioned in the affidavit were not promised, offered, or actually given immunity," prosecutors said.

But in his Nov. 15 letter to the trial judge, Anderson said that paragraph "is not true and completely false."

Reached by phone at his home in the Mat-Su Borough, Anderson said he felt he wasn't "treated right" by the government but declined to go into details.

"I laid it out there on the table so everyone can see what my dispute is," said Anderson, referring to his letter. He said it was like "fighting city hall."

‘AN INTERESTED PARTY'

In its filing Friday, government prosecutors challenged Anderson's motives for sending the letter and changing his story.

"The government has now obtained substantial additional evidence, including both documents and video surveillance, that prove the falsity of Mr. Anderson's allegations and that further explicitly prove Mr. Anderson's collusion with an interested party in the preparation and transmission of Mr. Anderson's letter," prosecutors wrote. They said they would describe the additional evidence in a supplemental filing Monday.

Anderson wouldn't say what prompted him to write the letter or how it was drafted and sent.

The letter filed with the court Friday bore a fax header showing it was sent Nov. 16 from the Fed-Ex Kinkos at the corner of Northern Lights Boulevard and Lake Otis Parkway in Anchorage - more than a three-hour round-trip drive from Anderson's home.

A manager at that Kinkos who identified himself only as Jeff said the FBI had been there and spoke to a female employee about the letter. The manager wouldn't identify the woman and said she has since left Alaska. Asked whether the FBI had also viewed or obtained surveillance video from the store, the manager said, "I don't believe I should be talking to you about this" and referred questions to a Fed-Ex security official in Washington state, who wasn't in his office an didn't return a message left on his mobile phone.

FBI spokesman Eric Gonzalez, one of two FBI agents who initially interviewed Anderson in August 2006, declined to comment. In his letter, Anderson identified him as one of two FBI agents who promised to not prosecute his friends and family.

"Without the preparation from the prosecution and the reminders from them about my activities and the agreement I had with them about my family and myself I would not have given the same testimony," Anderson told the judge. "Without a shadow of a doubt I believe this trial would have gone much differently."

Stevens' attorneys said Anderson's allegations could be evidence of "a flagrant constitutional violation warranting a severe remedy, including dismissal of the indictment." They asked Judge Sullivan to convene a hearing in February in which they could question prosecutors and FBI agents under oath to learn what happened.

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