Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) suffered some legal setbacks on Wednesday as a federal judge rejected attempts by Stevens' attorneys to limit or dismiss the seven-count corruption indictment against him.
Stevens' attorneys may yet file motions to suppress some of the most damaging evidence against him,, including testimony from Bill Allen, former CEO of VECO Corp., an Alaska oil-services company, and there is still a chance that U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan will dismiss the case on the grounds that it violates the Speech or Debate Clause, the constitutional privilege that protects lawmakers from legal action over legislative activities.
But in a series of rulings that damaged Stevens' defense, Judge Sullivan rejected a series of motions that challenged the indictment on the grounds that it was constitutionally vague or violated the statute-of-limitations. This came after Judge Sullivan earlier ruled that the indictment did not violate separation-of-powers provision for the executive branch and Congress. A move to change the venue for the trial to Alaska has been rejected as well.
Legal experts noted that Allen has testified in several federal corruption cases in Alaska as part of a huge Justice Department investigation in that state, meaning it may be difficult for Stevens' attorneys to knock him off the prosecutors' witness list. Allen suffered a brain injury in a motorcycle accident, and he suffered some speech problems afterward, but DOJ lawyers said there is no evidence of cognitive impairment. Stevens' attorneys are seeking Allen's medical records, as well as the drug and alchohol history of other expected government witnesses.
Stevens has been charged with failing to report more than $250,000 in gifts, including a major renovation of his vacation home, on his annual financial disclosure form. The unreported gifts allegedly came from Allen, as well as the firm itself and others from 1999 to 2006. Stevens reportedly did legislative and political favors for Allen and VECO, although he has only been charged with failing to declare the gifts. Stevens has denied the charges and sought a quick trial. Judge Sullivan promised on Wednesday that "a speedy trial is absolutely what he's going to get."
Brendan Sullivan, Stevens' lead defense attorney, declined to comment after Wednesday's hearing.
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