Skip to main Content

Witness in Stevens trial lived in fear

  • Author: Tony Hopfinger
  • Updated: June 30, 2016
  • Published November 21, 2008

Dave Anderson, a former oil welder who helped remodel Stevens' house in 2000, wrote a letter to U.S. District Judge Emmett Sullivan on Nov. 15, recanting testimony he gave on whether the government ever promised his friends and family immunity in the Feds' ongoing political corruption investigation in Alaska

Anderson, who lives in Willow, reveals in his letter that he was worried for his life because his uncle, former oilman Bill Allen, allegedly threatened to kill him. To protect his family, both from Allen and any criminal charges, he testified against Stevens, expecting immunity for his loved ones in return, he told in an interview Friday.

"I've lived in fear," Anderson said. "I know what Bill and his people are capable of."

At issue is a March 25, 2008, affidavit signed by Anderson in which he claims FBI agents had guaranteed him that they would offer full immunity to his mother, his girlfriend Kirsten Deacon, and members of her family, including Deacon's father, former Alaska state Sen. Jerry Ward, who has been associated with the Alaska corruption scandal but not charged with any crimes.

But federal prosecutors claim Anderson has it wrong. In a court filing Friday, prosecutors said, "Anderson told the government that he knew the affidavit contained inaccurate information" and that he "realized the government had agreed not to make Anderson provide direct testimony against his family members, but that Anderson knew that there had been no agreement relative to immunity or promises of immunity by the government as to anyone."

Prosecutors are gearing up to disprove Anderson's claims, saying they have evidence that he knew he never was promised immunity in return for testifying against Stevens, once one of the most powerful senators in the country.

Anderson oversaw much of the remodeling of Stevens's home. The Feds called him to testify about his role in the project, which the government argued was largely paid for by his Uncle Allen, the former owner of VECO Corp., once the largest Alaska-based oil-contracting firm. A jury found Stevens, 85, guilty of failing to report on his Senate disclosure forms more than $250,000 in home renovations and other gifts he received from Allen and friends.

Allen pleaded guilty last year to bribing state lawmakers and is cooperating with the government. (Meantime, Allen remains under investigation by Anchorage Police for allegedly sexually abusing one or more teenage girls eight years ago, charges he has denied through his lawyer.)

Before Stevens' trial this fall, Anderson said, prosecutors told him to testify that the affidavit was incorrect and that he was never told by the government that his family or Ward's would be promised immunity in the federal investigation.

"I understood that if I testified that this [affidavit] was not an accurate document, we would all be able to continue with life," Anderson said in his Nov. 15 letter to Sullivan. "Before I took the witness stand that day, I had the understanding that the agreement would be honored, or I would have never testified; I would have pleaded the fifth."

Anderson's accusations come three days after Stevens lost his Senate re-election bid to Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, largely due to his federal conviction. Stevens, who bid farewell to his fellow senators yesterday after serving in the body for 40 years, has appealed his conviction, claiming federal prosecutors cut corners during the trial, including withholding evidence.

Anderson's accusations raise new questions about the Justice Department's investigation and alleged promises it has made to witnesses. Anderson also claims that in the weeks leading up to the Stevens trial, federal prosecutors left him in a room with confidential documents related to the case that he was not supposed to read.

"They set folders out on the desk and slid them away from me, telling me that I was not read them," Anderson told Judge Sullivan in his letter. "They left me in the room and closed the door. Of course I read it all. I even called a friend and read the grand jury testimony all while in the Federal Building."

Anderson added: "Without the preparation from the prosecution and 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. Without a shadow of a doubt I believe this trial would have gone much differently."

In an interview with Anderson on Friday, he said he wrote the judge because he's worried the government may renege on its promise to not drag his family and friends into the corruption investigation.

"I'm just trying to protect my family," he said. "They said we had a deal. It was a gentleman's agreement, a handshake, that they would leave our family out of it."

But prosecutors say there was never such an agreement. They accuse Anderson of making false statements in his March 25, 2008, affidavit. Anderson told the government that the affidavit was drafted by another person, "who was the subject of an unrelated federal investigation", and that Anderson "felt pressure by that individual" to sign the affidavit, according to the filing Friday by prosecutors.

Anderson told the judge in his letter that although he testified that "the word immunity" was not mentioned during his dealings with the FBI, "I said that under distress. The agreement was that if I cooperated, my entire family would be safe from the investigation(s) of the Department of Justice and also the Treasury Department..."

Anderson claims that he's been worried for his life since 2004 because Allen and his son, Mark Allen, had at one time had a contract out to kill him. The alleged plot is detailed in a secret affidavit filed in federal court, according to a lawyer who has seen it.

The dispute allegedly centered around Deacon, Jerry Ward's daughter. Anderson and Bill Allen clashed over Deacon, who used to be Bill Allen's girlfriend. When she broke up with him and began seeing Anderson in 2004, Bill Allen and his son turned on Anderson and began threatening to hurt or kill him, Anderson claims.

In two corruption trials in fall 2007, Allen testified that he never threatened nor planned to kill Anderson. Instead, he accused Anderson of blackmailing him over the Stevens remodel several years ago, with Anderson threatening to tell authorities about the project unless Allen paid him off. Allen said he wanted to rough up his nephew, but not kill him.

Anderson denies he ever blackmailed his uncle, and the family feud continues today.

Earlier this year, we profiled Dave Anderson and detailed the family feud between him and Allen in "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure." At the time, we agreed to not name Kirsten Deacon, Anderson's girlfriend, or her father, Jerry Ward, in exchange for interviews with Anderson. Here are excerpts from that story:

Dave Anderson, a welder by trade, worked for Allen's VECO. In the late 1990s, he said, Allen put him charge of running his political jobs. Along with remodeling Stevens' home, Anderson's assignments included:

● Donating $9,000 in straw contributions to state lawmakers and their campaigns, $2,000 to Stevens, and $1,000 to U.S. Rep. Don Young.

● Welding a pork rotisserie used at campaign fundraisers for Young and overseeing the logistics, such as parking and the sound system, at the events.

● Building a floatplane dock in the late 1990s for then-state Sen. Rick Halford, who lives in Eagle River, and completing work on the home of Ramona Barnes, the first woman speaker of the Alaska House, who died in 2003.

In mid-2004, Anderson suddenly fell out of favor with his uncle. The issue was personal - Allen's girlfriend [Kirsten Deacon] had left him and started dating Anderson. Allen's pride was wounded, Anderson claims, and his uncle fired him and ordered him to leave Alaska.

Anderson says that except for a brief trip to New Mexico, he stayed in Anchorage as Allen continued to threaten him and his girlfriend. In late 2004, an Anchorage Police officer responded to a call made by the girlfriend, who said Allen, allegedly drunk, was threatening to come to her house where Anderson was staying, according to the officer's report. No charges were filed. A series of letters and other correspondence provided by Anderson show the dispute reaching a boil in fall 2005. The documents also reveal that at least Anderson thought the Stevens project and other work he did for his uncle might raise questions and should be kept quiet. Anderson claims he never blackmailed Allen about such issues. He was seeking only a "proper severance" for his 25 years at VECO, he says.

In an Oct. 3, 2005, letter to his uncle's then-lawyer, Jack Miller, Anderson wrote that he was worried for his life (Miller declined to comment for this story):

"Before I was fired from VECO Bill spent months threatening me with physical harm and beyond... I was told by Bill personally and repeatedly that I was not allowed to live in Alaska. And if I was in Alaska -anywhere in Alaska - he would 'stomp me into a mud hole.'"

Anderson continued:

"My house was packed up in August of last year by VECO employees. Bill personally oversaw the project. People took my personal property and rummaged through my home. He 'allowed' me to come to Alaska just to pick my things up and to head back out to New Mexico... About two weeks ago I drove by my home which I lived in and paid on for fifteen years and guess what? VECO employees demolished my home and removed it."

According to the Anchorage Building Department, VECO was granted a permit to demolish a mobile home at Anderson's former Anchorage address in August 2005. In the same letter, Anderson tells Allen's lawyer that he'd been a loyal employee who managed many of his uncle's inside political jobs.

"As you may or may not be aware of, Bill had me doing a lot of different work for VECO and yes it is true I worked on Senator Stevens' house in Girdwood and other peoples' personal projects as well. I made political contributions on behalf of Bill by him giving me the cash, me depositing it and then (me) writing a check...I never once have disclosed ANY ... sensitive information I have....political, business or personal...although of course, as you know, I have been accused of doing just that."

On Oct. 18, 2005, Anderson again wrote Miller, asking Allen's lawyer to bring the dispute to an end:

"Bill has completely exhausted all of my patience with threats of death and violence or (me) not being able to work in or live in Alaska. I am completely through tolerating that. This so-called FAMILY FEUD is non-existent. This is between Bill, VECO and me."

As in the Oct. 3 letter, Anderson reminded Miller of the projects he'd done for Allen, including "working on various politicians' houses and projects for politicians as my supervisor saw fit, of course, processing the labor and supplies through VECO for payment."

A few days later, Allen's lawyer drafted a 10-page "Settlement Agreement and Release of All Claims." Allen and Anderson vowed to neither speak to one another ever again nor discuss their VECO work with any federal, state or local government authorities, including the Internal Revenue Service, Alaska Public Offices Commission and the Federal Election Commission, according to an unsigned draft of the settlement dated Oct. 21, 2005.

For signing the document, Anderson said, he was paid $30,000 by Allen's law office. Allen's alleged threats toward Anderson and the $30,000 payout are detailed in a sealed FBI affidavit filed in federal court, according to a lawyer who has seen it.

For more newsletters click here

Local news matters.

Support independent, local journalism in Alaska.