The corruption trial of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) will formally begin on Thursday morning, the judge overseeing the case just announced.
Judge Emmet Sullivan had hoped to complete jury selection by the end of today, but the session ran over and will now be continued on Wednesday. Opening statements by the Justice Department and Stevens' attorneys will begin first thing on Thursday, and the government will then begin putting on its case. The Justice Department alleges that Stevens received more than $250,000 in improper gifts from Bill Allen, former CEO of VECO Corp., including extensive home remodeling, without reporting the gifts. Stevens has denied the charges and sought a quick trial.
Judge Sullivan, Stevens' attorneys and federal prosecutors were only able to finish questioning on 29 potential jurors on Tuesday, and some of those may be struck following challenges by the prosecution or defense. The goal was for 36 prospective jurors, which will be narrowed down to 12 jurors and four alternates, and since it was not met, further juror interviews will be conducted on Wednesday morning.
Stevens attended today's hearing, but showed little reaction. He jotted down notes for a short period, and spoke occassionally to his lawyers. Otherwise, Stevens showed no emotion at all and quickly left the courthouse once the session was completed.
After jury selection is complete, Judge Sullivan may still have to rule on at least one pre-trial motion by Stevens' attorneys. Brendan Sullivan, Stevens' lead attorney, has filed a motion seeking information on a stock purchase agreement between Bill Allen, former CEO of oil services company VECO Corp., and the CH2M Hill, an engineering firm. Allen, the government's star witness, is slated to receive as much as $40 million from CH2M Hill, but Stevens' attorneys suggest thqt amount may be reduced depending on the outcome of this trial. They argue that this is a major motivation for Allen's testimony against Stevens.
Attorneys for CH2M Hill have submitted a motion to quash the subpoenas, but Judge Sullivan has not ruled on the issue yet.
The stock purchase deal is one of several different attacks that Stevens' attorneys have launched against Allen in their bid to undermine the prosecution case.