Jurors were offered conflicting views of Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens during a four-week corruption trial: a cantankerous but credible senator who didn't know he was being lavished with free gifts, or a sour-faced, scheming one who thought he knew how to quietly get undisclosed freebies.
Stevens completed three days of testimony Monday with lawyers still trying to convince jurors of their portrait of the longtime Republican lawmaker. He has been charged with lying on financial disclosure forms about $250,000 in renovations and other gifts he received from oil services contractor VECO Corp.
Closing arguments were scheduled for today, and jurors were to begin deliberating Wednesday.
Stevens has said he never sought gifts and wouldn't even accept a free lunch, much less the expensive remodeling services that changed his A-frame Girdwood, Alaska, cabin into a large, modern home with a sauna, wine cellar and wraparound porches. He and his wife, Catherine, paid for everything they knew of, Stevens insisted.
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“Catherine paid for the work that was done at our house, she paid the bills, and that's all there is to it,” said Stevens, the last words he left the jury with before leaving the stand.
But prosecutors say he had a history of accepting gifts – including an expensive massage chair in his Washington home – and omitting them from the financial disclosure forms. Stevens has insisted repeatedly that the chair was a loan from a friend, although it has been in his house for seven years.
“How is that not a gift?” prosecutor Brenda Morris asked.
“He bought that chair as a gift, but I refused it as a gift,” Stevens said. “He put it there and said it was my chair. I told him I would not accept it as a gift. We have lots of things in our house that don't belong to us.”
Playing to the jury, Morris appeared confused. “So, if you say it's not a gift, it's not a gift?” she said.
“I refused it as a gift,” Stevens replied. “I let him put it in our basement at his request.”
Stevens faces a tough re-election fight, and he's hoping for an acquittal before Election Day. Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, a Democrat, has sought to capitalize on Stevens' legal woes in the race.