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Sen. Stevens pleads not guilty, and wants trial moved to Alaska

August 01, 2008|Vimal Patel | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) pleaded not guilty Thursday to seven counts of making false statements on his Senate financial disclosure forms by failing to report hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts from one of his state's most powerful employers.

U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan set a tentative trial date for Sept. 24. Stevens, 84, is running for reelection and requested an expedited trial so the matter would be over before election day.

"He would like to clear his name before the general election," said his lawyer, Brendan V. Sullivan Jr., noting that his client's indictment came 98 days before the Nov. 4 vote and 28 days before Alaska's Republican primary, where he is facing six challengers. "This is the first time in my life I'm asking for a speedy trial."

Stevens' lawyer also requested a change of venue to Alaska, saying that most of the witnesses were in that state. The judge scheduled a hearing for Aug. 19, but said he believed that his courtroom was the appropriate place for the trial.

Stevens, the longest-serving Republican in the Senate, is accused of accepting more than $250,000 in improvements to his Alaska home, along with other items, such as a gas grill and a new Land Rover, from executives of VECO Corp., an oil field services company.

Government ethics laws require legislators to report gifts over a specific monetary amount, and the indictment alleges that Stevens failed to do so on his Senate financial disclosure statements for 2001 through 2006.

The not-guilty plea was expected.

"I am looking forward to this trial as a way of finally showing the truth -- that I am innocent," Stevens said in a statement released after his court appearance. "When all the facts come out at the trial, Alaskans will know that I continue to be a dedicated public servant and that I am working hard for them every day."

The federal corruption investigation has already resulted in the convictions of several Alaska state officials, along with VECO's former chief executive, Bill J. Allen, and chief lobbyist, Richard L. Smith. VECO is no longer in business, having been purchased by CH2M Hill, a Colorado engineering services company, last year.

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vimal.patel@latimes.com

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