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Update on the Allegedly Corrupt

October 10, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

With the Senate and House adjourned, the only news coming form Congress these days seems to be from lawmakers dealing with their corruption charges. Senator Ted Stevens’ (R-AK) trial, addressing allegation that he hid $250,000 in gifts and home renovations he received from an oil company executive, is currently well under way (pictured at right), while Rep. William Jefferson’s (D-LA) bribery case is in preliminary stages and his trial is scheduled to begin on December 2nd.

For the past few weeks, the prosecution has been making their case in the Stevens trial. Below is a quick overview of what we’ve heard.

Construction Workers testified that they didn’t bill Stevens for major renovations they did to his home, and an accountant for the company said she was told to “leave no paper trail” of the renovations:

>Accountant Cheryl Boomershine told a U.S. District Court jury that she documented invoices for $188,928.82 in labor and supplies that the Republican senator is charged with failing to report.
>Boomershine, who has worked since 1981 at VECO Corp. or its successor CH2M Hill, said she charted numerous invoices, receipts and checks billed to “Girdwood consultants” or “Girdwood consumables.” The expenses occurred from September 2000 to April 2001 – even though the company didn’t have facilities in that city.
>Girdwood is where Stevens owns a home that was converted from a single-story A-frame to a two-story residence.

Bill Allen, the VECO CEO who has already plead guilty to bribing state lawmakers in Alaska, spoke about his relationship with Sen. Stevens and some of their transactions:

>Allen described his annual fishing trips and visits with the senator, where they would walk and smoke cigars and drink wine “now and then.”
>"We really liked each other, you know?" Allen reminisced, yesterday. “Ted really worked hard. Ted loved Alaska and I loved Alaska.”
>Besides recounting his history with Stevens in his testimony Tuesday, Allen spent much of the afternoon detailing a transaction where he traded a new Land Rover for Stevens’ 1964 Mustang convertible. The Land Rover was worth approximately $44,000 while Stevens’ Mustang – including a $5000 payment to Allen – was worth a little over $32,000.

Audio of phone conversations between Stevens and Allen was played for the jury.

>Sen. Ted Stevens told wealthy businessman Bill Allen they needed to stick together and “really lay low’’ to beat an FBI investigation into their cozy relationship, according to audiotapes played Monday at the senator’s corruption trial.
>”Screw them, if they prove we did something wrong,‘’ the senator says in one of a series of secretly recorded telephone calls in the fall of 2006. "In my heart, I don’t think we did. … I say, screw it.‘’
>"I think they’re probably listening to this conversation right now,‘’ Stevens says in the recording.
>"We might have to pay a fine and spend a little time in jail,’’ he continues. "I hope it doesn’t come to that.’’

And a former VECO employee, Dave Anderson, talked about all the work he did to Stevens’s home:

>Prosecutors walked Anderson through the extensive work done on Stevens’ chalet, overseen by Anderson and Rocky Williams, another former VECO employee. Prosecutors showed a series of photos to Anderson, who then told the jury how they jacked up Stevens’ home, poured a new foundation, built a new first floor, then did custom work on a deck, stairway and other parts of the home, and installed a generator and rope lights.
>Andeson estimated that he spent “10 hours a day, six days a week” working on the home project for months, although he left Alaska for Oregon for a roughly 10-week period in late 2000.
>"This was basically Bill’s thing," Anderson said, referring to Allen, the government’s star witness in the case. “Bill wanted to do it, take care of Mr. Stevens.”

As of last night, the prosecution had rested and Stevens’ defense team has taken over. So far the jury has heard from Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI), who stated that, during their 40 years of friendship, Stevens has never told him a lie, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who said, “as we say in the infantry, this is a guy you take on a long patrol,” and Ronald Rainey, a retired utility worker from Soldotna, Alaska, who said that the value of the sled dog Stevens received as a gift from Allen did not exceed the Senate’s $258 gift limit.

On a separate note, Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA), who is facing 16 charges including bribery, racketeering, fraud, money laundering and obstruction of justice, was issued a minor setback today when Judge T.S. Ellis III ruled that secret meetings he held with the prosecution will remain secret. But there was also some good news for Jefferson. Jefferson’s case is currently scheduled to begin on December 2nd, just four days before his general election pending results of a November 4th runoff against Democratic challenger Helena Moreno. Judge Ellis said today that, at this point, he expects the trial will be delayed and will probably start at some point after Jefferson’s Dec. 6 election.

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