Ted Stevens Is On The Witness Stand

For anyone who has watched the Senate over the past 40 years, this is an extraordinary sight:

Sen. Ted Stevens is sitting on the witness stand trying to salvage his political career and potentially avoid prison.

This is a man who has roared on the Senate floor while wearing an Incredible Hulk tie, threatened colleagues during debate, and has held the gavel of the powerful Appropriations Committee. When he flies home to Alaska, he lands at the airport named after him. He is the longest-serving Republican in Senate history.

And at this moment, someone else is holding the gavel, and he's the one answering questions about his life, his corruption allegations,and simple tasks such as Senate paperwork that have gotten him into so much trouble.

"We call Senator Ted Stevens," his attorney Brendan Sullivan just said, very matter of factly.

"Did you ever intend to file an inaccurate disclosure form?" Sullivan asked.

"No sir," Stevens replied.

Sullivan also asked if he always filed his forms on time. "Yes sir," Stevens said.

And now the defense team has launched into a long biographical background for Stevens, most of which could be found on his Web site. But for those of us who have watched Congress for many years, it seems strange to hear Stevens start off his introduction to the jury like this:

"I was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1923," Stevens said. "I'll be 85 in November."

The testimony only lasted about 20 minutes, and after the initial quick denial of the accusation that he falsified Senate disclosure forms, Stevens basically gave his life history.

What jurors learned was that Stevens is essentially a founding father of Alaska. He described his World War II service, his role as the Interior Department's legislative counsel the year that Alaska became a state, and his 40 years in the Senate. Sullivan asked him which president he served during his work for Alaska statehood, and Stevens quickly said "Dwight D. Eisenhower."

Stevens quickly turned to his personal history, which was marked by tragedy when his wife was killed in a 1978 plane crash.

The court adjourned at 4:45 p.m.