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Stevens Loses Several Early Legal Rounds As Judge Promises 'speedy Trial'

A federal judge today rejected a motion by attorneys for Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) to dismiss corruption allegations against him, but still has to rule on several important challenges by the Alaska Republican's defense team.

U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan also promised that Stevens, as requested, would get a "speedy trial." Stevens, the longest serving Senate Republican in history, is seeking re-election this November and has moved to have the trail finished before Election Day.

"The defendant has asked [for] a speedy trial, and a speedy trial is absolutely what he's going to get," Sullivan told federal prosecutors and Stevens' attorneys at a pre-trial motion hearing today. Stevens himself was not present at the hearing. Juror selection is slated to begin on Sept. 22, with the trial scheduled to start two days later and last at least a week.

Stevens has been charged with failing to report more than $250,000 in gifts, including a major renovation of his home, on his annual financial disclosure form. The unreported gifts allegedly came from Bill Allen, former CEO of VECO Corp., an Alaska oil-services company, as well as the firm itself and other persons 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' attorneys have filed a dozen motions challenging major portions of the government's case, including one that Sullivan rejected today dealing with separation of powers. Stevens' lawyers, led by Brendan Sullivan, argued that only the Senate Ethics Committee could determine whether the Alaska Republican failed to adequately report any gifts.

Judge Sullivan also dismissed a defense motion claiming the charges against Stevens were too vague. He earlier had shot down Stevens' attempt to move the trial to Alaska.

Judge Sullivan has yet to rule on several other important defense motions, including one claiming that the Justice Department has violated the Speech or Debate Clause in filing charges against Stevens. The Speech or Debate Clause is a constitutional privilege that shields lawmakers and congressional staff from legal action over legislative acts.
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