- The Washington Times - Monday, September 22, 2008

WASHINGTON (AP) – Several powerful senators and former Secretary of State Colin Powell are among possible witnesses at the corruption trial of the longest serving U.S. Republican senator. Jury selection began Monday in the trial of the Sen. Ted Stevens, who has represented Alaska for more than 35 years. A federal judge listed dozens of people who might be called at the monthlong trial.

Among them are Democratic Sens. Ted Kennedy, Patrick Leahy and Daniel Inoyue. Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch is also on the list, as is Powell.

Stevens, who took his seat in the courtroom before the proceedings commenced, is charged with lying in Senate financial disclosure records about hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts and home renovations he received from VECO Corp, an oil services company. On Friday, he urged people to reserve judgment until all the evidence is in.

The senator at the time repeated that “I am innocent of the charges against me, and I think the trial will show that.”

VECO employees normally build oil pipeline and processing equipment. But company workers also led the renovation of the senator’s home, a project that was overseen by Bill Allen, a longtime Stevens friend and now the government’s star witness.

Stevens, 84, says he paid every bill he received and has pleaded not guilty to all seven counts. The senator has pushed to get his trial completed before Alaskans vote Nov. 4 on his re-election.

The 150 potential jurors will complete a multipage questionnaire behind closed doors before being questioned by lawyers on their suitability for the monthlong trial.

Stevens, who is looking to win a seventh, six-year term, is in a tough race against Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, a Democrat. The longtime Republican lawmaker will have to stay in Washington during the trial, while Begich is free to campaign around Alaska.

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