- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The frontier-style politics of Alaska will be on display in a federal courtroom this week in the corruption trial of Sen. Ted Stevens, the Senate’s longest-serving Republican.

Mr. Stevens, 84, stands accused of failing to include in his Senate disclosure forms more than $250,000 in home renovations and gifts from an oil services company that has been at the center of a sweeping corruption scandal in Alaska.

Mr. Stevens has sought to clear his name before he faces a tough re-election bid in November.

On Monday, 184 potential jurors filed into a courtroom, filled out questionnaires and heard the names of more than 200 potential witnesses in the case.

Those potential witnesses include former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Democratic Sens. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont and Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii, as well as Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican.

It is not clear whether any of those officials will testify, or even whether they would be witnesses for the defense or the prosecution. But the inclusion of Mr. Inouye on that list sets up a “reunion” of sorts between him and Brendan Sullivan, who is Mr. Stevens’ attorney.

Mr. Sullivan, considered among the best trial lawyers in the country, represented Oliver North during congressional hearings into the Iran-Contra affair. Mr. Inouye, who chaired those hearings, at one point expressed irritation over Mr. Sullivan’s frequent objections.

Mr. Sullivan famously responded: “Well, sir, I’m not a potted plant. I’m here as the lawyer. That’s my job.”

In the Stevens case, Mr. Sullivan will work to show that any inaccuracies on Mr. Stevens’ financial-disclosure forms were not intentional. The defense also seems to be preparing for a full assault against the government’s star witness, Bill Allen.

Allen, 71, is the founder of VECO, which was once Alaska’s largest employer but no longer exists. Colorado-based CH2M Hill bought the oil-services company for hundreds of millions in 2007.

That same year, Allen pleaded guilty to bribing state lawmakers in Alaska and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in a corruption probe that already has netted six other convictions.

Prosecutors say Allen paid for home improvements on Mr. Stevens’ Girwood home, which he called “the chalet.” Prosecutors say Mr. Stevens did favors for VECO, such as securing federal grants, but they stopped short of charging him with bribery, which is a typical corruption charge and more serious than the charges Mr. Stevens faces.

The defense likely will attack Allen’s reliability by pointing to a 2001 motorcycle crash that left him with brain injuries. Allen previously has testified the injury has deeply affected his speech, but not his memory.

Mr. Stevens’ attorneys also may go after Allen’s credibility by bringing up allegations that Allen had sex with an underage girl in the 1990s. Allen has never been charged with that, and his attorney, Robert Bundy, told the Alaska Daily News: “Bill says he never had any kind of illicit relationship with her, ever.”

Jury selection is expected to continue Tuesday, with opening arguments scheduled for Wednesday.

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