Stevens: Gov't. withheld key evidence

September 29, 2008 6:07:04 AM PDT
Sen. Ted Stevens accused prosecutors of withholding evidence in his gift-giving trial after a weekend in which a key government witness apparently switched sides mid-trial and told defense attorneys that important facts were being ignored.

In court documents filed just before midnight Sunday, the Senate's longest-serving Republican asked a judge to dismiss the corruption case or declare a mistrial.

Stevens is charged with lying on Senate financial disclosure forms about more than $250,000 in free home renovations and other gifts he received from VECO Corp., a powerful Alaska oil pipeline contractor.

Former VECO employees have testified that they spent countless hours working on the senator's home, building a balcony, a custom steel staircase, a new roof and more. Such testimony was expected to continue Monday as prosecutors tried to persuade jurors that Stevens must have known he was getting freebies.

Defense attorneys said Sunday that the government has overlooked important holes in its story and withheld evidence that would help the Alaska senator. They cite statements made by Robert Williams, the VECO employee who acted as the foreman on Stevens' home improvement project.

According to court documents, prosecutors flew Williams from Alaska to Washington to prepare him for court, then abruptly sent him home, saying his testimony wasn't needed because of his health problems.

On Friday, defense attorneys said, Williams agreed to speak with them for the first time. He said the government's estimates for how much time he spent at the senator's house - and how much that time was worth - were overblown, according to court documents.

"This new information gravely undercuts the government's case," defense attorneys wrote.

The value of the renovation project is important. The 84-year-old senator says he never for any freebies and, since he and his wife paid $160,000 for the project, they assumed that covered everything.

Prosecutors argue that the job was so expensive, Stevens must have known his $160,000 wouldn't cover the tab.

Stevens says that if anything was tacked on to the job, VECO founder Bill Allen did so without telling him. Because the senator's wife handles all his finances, Stevens says there's no way he could have known Allen was adding on work.

Prosecutors had planned to put Allen, their star witness, on the stand Monday. Instead, they listed more than a dozen potential witnesses, including VECO employees, former Stevens staffers and a former Federal Election Commission official.

On the Net:

Justice Department documents: http://www.usdoj.gov/criminal/us-v-stevens/


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