A federal jury on Monday found Republican Sen. Ted Stevens guilty of lying on his financial disclosure forms, ending in disgrace the four-decade Senate career of a man whose imprint on Alaska dates to before statehood.
It's the highest-profile felony conviction in a sweeping four-year federal investigation into corruption in Alaska politics, and an almost unprecedented conviction by a jury of a sitting U.S. senator.
Jurors found that Stevens, 84, willfully filed false financial-disclosure forms that hid such gifts as renovations that doubled the size of his home.
Those gifts, valued at as much as $250,000 over seven years, came mostly from his former friend Bill Allen, the star prosecution witness in Stevens' trial and the former owner of Veco Corp. The oil field-services company was one of Alaska's largest private employers before Allen, caught up in the federal corruption probe, was forced to sell it last year.
Stevens slumped slightly when he heard that the jury had found him guilty on the first count. When the second count was read, his lawyer Brendan Sullivan reached over and put his arm around Stevens.
As the senator exited the courtroom, his wife, Catherine, kissed him on the cheek.
He told her, “It's not over yet.” She responded, “You got that right.”
Then he added, “Not over yet.”
He faces up to five years in prison on each count but under federal guidelines is likely to receive much less time, if any.
Stevens and his lawyers, who rarely speak to the news media, exited the courthouse without making a statement.
But he said in a statement that prosecutors had improperly held back favorable evidence and “allowed evidence to be introduced that they knew was false.”
“I will fight this unjust verdict with every ounce of energy I have,” he said.
Now, voters will decide whether Stevens, who has represented the state in the Senate since 1968 and before that helped usher in statehood for Alaska, should continue to serve as their senator. For the first time in his career, Stevens faces a competitive re-election fight, against Democratic Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich.
Stevens, who was indicted in late July, sought an early trial date, gambling that he would face voters as an innocent man. Even without the conviction, though, voters would have to overlook four weeks of testimony that exposed some of the senator's innermost financial and personal secrets.
The guilty verdict will complicate not only his re-election bid but the remainder of his term in the Senate. His colleagues have the option – never exercised – of voting to expel him before his term ends in January. Four U.S. senators have been convicted of crimes, historians note, but not one has received a presidential pardon.
The corruption trial, which began Sept. 22, featured 24 government witnesses and 28 defense witnesses. Stevens took the stand in his own defense, a tactic that appeared to hurt him after prosecutors painted him as a disagreeable and mean-spirited man who considered himself above the law.
The senator's defense rested on the theory that he and his wife, Catherine, had paid all the bills they had received in connection with the renovations of their home in Girdwood.
Catherine Stevens also took the stand, providing contradictory testimony that may have convinced the jurors that their conflicting stories meant that they were lying or covering up.
The jurors had to weigh the husband-and-wife testimony against that of Allen, who pleaded guilty to bribing state lawmakers in Alaska in an unrelated case. Allen agreed to testify in Stevens' trial and two others in exchange for leniency in his own sentencing and the promise that prosecutors wouldn't charge his children in the corruption investigation.
The jury also heard from a parade of tradesmen.
Almost daily for the first two weeks of the trial, the government introduced evidence showing that Veco employees – particularly electricians and a plumber – were on the job daily. Prosecutors also showed that the project's two supervisors, Robert “Rocky” Williams and Dave Anderson, were being paid by Veco and that the company provided much of the materials for the renovation and all the later additions and some repairs and furnishings. There wasn't evidence that Stevens or his wife ever paid Veco for the work.
The Justice Department has charged 11 people in connection with its corruption probe in Alaska, including five former and current state legislators in Alaska. Other than Stevens, five pleaded guilty, three were convicted by juries in Alaska and two await trial.
The Associated Press contributed.