For the first time since his indictment, Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) has spoken publicly about his legal situation — and how it affects his re-election campaign this year.
The longest-serving Republican in the Senate tells NPR that he's, "not worried" about the charges against him and that prosecutors "have a right to come to their conclusion. But I have a right to be presumed innocent just like anybody else."
Stevens made the comments as he returned home to Alaska, landing in Ketchikan, where he was greeted by a handful of applauding supporters.
The federal indictment announced Tuesday accuses Stevens of concealing $250,000 worth of gifts and favors from an oil services company.
Stevens would not go into specifics about the allegations, saying that talking about the charges right now would be bad legal strategy. But hew was willing to talk about how his legal strategy ties in with his campaign strategy. Stevens has asked for the soonest possible trial date.
"I'm entitled to a speedy trial," he tells NPR, "and I asked for one and I'm delighted, I think it's a good thing. That way when the voters vote, they'll be voting knowing I was right all along."
Stevens, who has been part of Alaska politics since before statehood, has a deep reservoir of loyalty among Alaskans. He's seen less loyalty from his Republican colleagues in the Senate. Since his indictment, several have given away money they received from his political action committee. Asked about that at the airport on Friday night, Stevens shrugged.
"It was a strange reaction ...," he said. "I call it a knee-jerk reaction."