Defense, Prosecution Rest In Sen. Stevens' Trial
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
The defense and the prosecution have rested their cases in Senator Ted Steven's corruption trial. The case is expected to go to the jury on Wednesday. Stevens is the longest-serving Republican in the US Senate and he faces seven counts of failing to report gifts on his disclosure forms. Prosecutors alleged that the Alaska senator omitted a quarter million dollars in gifts and services provided by an oil industry executive and other friends. NPR's Nina Totenberg has been covering the trial.
NINA TOTENBERG: Stevens spent this third day on the witness stand in a verbal jousting match with prosecutor Brenda Morris. She jabbed, he parried. She sliced and diced, he dodged and ducked. He denied, for example, that the large generator installed at the Stevens home in Alaska by oil industry executive Bill Allen was a gift.
Prosecutor Morris: You requested the generator, correct? Answer: I requested a generator. I asked Bill Allen as a friend to rent a small generator just for the period around New Year's and in case we had Y2K problems.
Question: Your testimony is that because Bill Allen put in a much nicer generator than you requested, you don't have to pay for it? Stevens replied that he didn't even realize the generator was still there until the following August and that he then told Allen to roll it into the bills for the home renovation. I wanted no gifts, he said, noting that he had repeatedly asked for bills and paid all those he received totaling some $160,000.
Prosecutor Morris moved on to the brand new $2,700 Brookstone chair that Stevens' friend, Bob Parsons, had delivered to the Stevens home in Washington, DC. Stevens said he did not disclose the chair on his Senate forms because he told Parsons he could not accept it as a gift. If I accepted it, yes, that would be a violation, Stevens acknowledged. But he maintained he had accepted the chair only as a loan.
Question: And where's the chair now years later? Answer: At our house. How is that not a gift? Answer: We have many things at our house that don't belong to us. Question: So if you say it's not a gift, it's not a gift? Answer: I refused it as a gift. I let him put it in our basement at his request. Question: You wrote him a thank you note. Why are you thanking him for a loan? I just used it that first year. Question: But you kept it? Answer: It's still there.
In point of fact, the chair is not central to the government's case against Stevens, but today it gave the prosecution a chance to make its point. Prosecutor Morris tried to use the same tactic with the large sculpture of fish that Allen and others bought for Stevens at a charity event. Wasn't that a gift to you? The prosecutor asked. Answer: It was a gift to me for my foundation. It's at my house in Alaska, Steven said, because the foundation to house my papers doesn't have an office.
Stevens had the last word in this exchange. Ms. Morris, he said, I haven't died yet. Nina Totenberg, NPR News, Washington.
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