A combative Sen. Ted Stevens angrily jousted with a federal prosecutor Friday over his relationship with a businessman who provided gifts and thousands of dollars in free work on his house in Alaska.
Stevens could be seen trying to keep his temper in check as prosecutor Brenda Morris pressed him about the more than $250,000 in renovations and other gifts he received through millionaire businessman Bill Allen, who founded VECO Corp., an oil services company.
Stevens is charged with trying to hide the gifts and free work by lying on Senate financial disclosure forms. Stevens insists that he and his wife paid all the renovation bills given to them.
“If it was a gift, why did I ask for a bill?” said Stevens in one exchange with Morris.
“To cover your butt,” Morris said calmly.
“That wasn't fair, ma'am,” Stevens replied.
Morris will continue questioning Stevens – the last witness in the three-week-long trial – on Monday. Lawyers will then make closing arguments, with U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan saying he expects the jury to start deliberating early next week.
As Morris repeatedly needled him on his relationship with Allen, VECO and the new things at his home, Stevens would shoot back with: “You're not listening to me, I've answered it twice,” “I'm not going to get into a numbers game with you,” “You're making a lot of assumptions that are unwarranted,” and “That question is tautological.”
Stevens insisted that the things he received from Allen, such as furniture, a backup generator and a toolbox, were things from a drinking buddy who had keys to his Girdwood home, not material from VECO Corp.
“VECO is not Bill Allen to me. Bill Allen is not VECO. You're the one bringing VECO in here. Bill Allen is my friend,” Stevens said.
And Stevens told jurors that he didn't want the things Allen brought over anyway, and continually asked him for bills or to take the things away. But Allen didn't.
“You were a lion of the Senate, but you didn't know how to stop this man from putting big-ticket items at your home?” said Morris, who asked the Republican icon why he didn't just ask for his keys back.
The renovations are at the heart of Stevens' corruption trial. The Alaska Republican appeared as his own star witness, trying to convince jurors that he paid every bill he received for his 2000 home renovation project and didn't know he received any freebies.