Prosecutors wrap up case against Sen. Stevens

WASHINGTON Fri Oct 10, 2008 2:39am EDT

1 of 3. Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) leaves the U.S. District Court in Washington, July 31, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Yuri Gripas

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Prosecutors wrapped up their case in the corruption trial of Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens on Thursday after calling a final witness who testified about his work in renovating the Alaska lawmaker's home.

Stevens, one of the Senate's most powerful Republicans, is accused of lying on his financial disclosure forms to conceal more than $250,000 in renovations and other gifts from Alaska oil services firm VECO Corp and its former chief executive, Bill Allen.

Prosecutors called David Anderson, Allen's nephew and a welder for VECO, who said that in 2000 and 2001 he worked on Stevens' home in Girdwood, Alaska.

Anderson testified how he spent months, often joined by other VECO workers, helping to build a new first floor, a garage and two outside decks, replace some of the windows and do a number of other projects.

He said he often worked 10 hours a day, for six days a week.

Prosecutors called Anderson to testify after the judge told the jury to disregard some VECO business records that showed Anderson had worked hundreds of hours on the project.

As a sanction for prosecutors, the judge told the jury to disregard the records because prosecutors knew Anderson actually was in Oregon for some of the time when the records showed him to be working on the house.

On at least three separate occasions, the judge has sharply criticized the prosecutors for failing to turn over evidence helpful to the defense.

But the judge has refused to dismiss the charges or declare a mistrial, and he also rejected a defense request for acquittal after the prosecutors finished their case.

The 84-year-old senator is seeking re-election in November after 40 years in the Senate. A guilty verdict would make his re-election bid more difficult, meaning the trial's outcome could influence the Democratic Party's attempt to tighten its hold on the U.S. Senate.

Stevens, the longest-serving Senate Republican in history, has denied the charges. He said his wife took care of financial matters.

Lawyers for Stevens began presenting their defense, with Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, a Democrat, testifying as a character witness.

Inouye said he had known Stevens throughout his Senate career, that they had served on some of the same committees and have been close personal friends.

Asked by defense lawyer Brendan Sullivan if Stevens had a reputation for telling the truth and for integrity," Inouye replied, "Absolutely."

In response to a question from one of the prosecutors, Inouye said, "I can't imagine Ted Stevens ever telling a lie."

Robert Cary, another lawyer representing Stevens, said the defense team planned on Friday to call another character witness, former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

His lawyers have not said whether Stevens would testify in his own defense.

(Editing by Randall Mikkelsen and Peter Cooney)

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