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Judge Denies Stevens Effort To Move Trial To Alaska

A federal judge has denied a motion by Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) to have his corruption trial moved to Alaska, meaning the venerable senator will have to fight for his legal future in Washington while his political future hangs in the balance back in his home state.

Judge Emmet Sullivan took just five minutes  to make his decision, even after hearing nearly an hour of feisty arguments from Stevens lawyer Brendan Sullivan. Judge Sullivan said that the fundamental premise that the alleged crime _ failure to file proper Senate financial disclosure forms _ was committed in Washington was enough to keep the trial in Washington. On top of that, the logistics of moving a trial to Alaska would have been daunting and would have delayed the trial.

Stevens attorney Sullivan, a long time Washington lawyer who represented Oliver North some 20 years ago in the Iran Contra case, argued vigorously that the trial should be moved to Alaska because 40 witnesses would have to travel thousands of miles back and forth at significant cost to testify in Washington.

"We want it [the trial] to go as quickly as possible, we want the verdict as far on this side of the election as possible," Brendan Sullivan said. "But if he's in D.C., he can't campaign. He can't get there."

Judge Sullivan didn't buy that argument, and says he will consider only holding court four days a week in September and October so Stevens can fly home on the weekend to campaign. The judge also said that the court had already made major adjustments to the rest of its docket to accomodate Stevens' request that the trial be over with quickly and before his election. And the bottom line, Judge Sullivan said, is that "the wrongdoing alleged in the case occurred here."

Since his indictment earlier this monthy on seven felony counts of failure to file accurate financial disclosures, Stevens has fallen well behind in polls against Democratic challenger Mark Begich. A three week trial, coming just one month before the election, would severely inhibit Stevens' ability to campaign.

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