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Inouye emphatic as he testifies to Stevens' honesty

October 10, 2008|From the Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Democratic Sen. Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii strongly defended the honor of Republican Sen. Ted Stevens at the Alaska senator's corruption trial Thursday, saying he's never heard of his friend telling a lie.

"His reputation for truthfulness and honesty is what, sir?" defense attorney Brendan Sullivan asked.

"Absolute," Inouye answered emphatically.

Stevens, 84, is accused of lying on Senate forms to conceal more than $250,000 in renovations on his cabin and other gifts from Bill J. Allen, his close friend and former chief of a major Alaska oil services and construction company, VECO Corp.

But Inouye, who's also 84, told prosecutors that he's "never heard of him lying under oath."

It remained unclear whether the straight-talking Stevens, the longest-serving Senate Republican and patriarch of Alaska politics for generations, would take the stand in his own defense.

Stevens' lawyers started their defense by calling his friends and constituents to testify on the senator's reputation for honesty and truthfulness. Former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell is expected to testify today.

Inouye and Stevens are the top two senators on the panel controlling the Pentagon budget. They are also the chairman and top Republican, respectively, on the influential commerce committee.

Stevens has stepped down from those positions while on trial.

Defense lawyers insist that Stevens was too busy in Washington to pay close attention to the renovation of the cabin near Anchorage, which his wife oversaw. They also say their client assumed that the $160,000 they paid to another contractor covered everything.

The prosecution, which rested its case earlier Thursday, relied on testimony by several VECO workers who, starting in 2000, labored for months to transform a modest A-frame cabin into a two-story home with wraparound decks, new electrical wiring, and plumbing, sauna and a master-bedroom balcony.

Prosecutors called as their star witness Allen, who has pleaded guilty to bribery in a corruption investigation resulting in the convictions of several Alaska legislators.

A self-made multimillionaire who has known Stevens for more than two decades, Allen testified that the senator came up with the idea for the cabin renovation to make room for visiting grandchildren. As the work progressed, Stevens sometimes asked him for invoices, but Allen said he ignored the requests because he liked him too much, and the senator never ended up paying.

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