Corruption trial begins for Stevens


POSTED: Thursday, September 25, 2008

WASHINGTON » For more than a year, the normally outspoken Sen. Ted Stevens has kept mum about the FBI corruption investigation that has swirled around him. There will be time for answering questions, he said.

With opening arguments scheduled to begin today, that time has come. But it remains unclear whether jurors will ever hear from the Senate's longest-serving Republican.

Stevens has said he plans to testify during his corruption trial, but he hedged that statement with the caveat that he will follow the advice of his lawyers.

Testifying would expose Stevens, whose has a famously short fuse, to a broad and potentially devastating series of questions from prosecutors.

Stevens' closest political ally in Washington is Hawaii Sen. Dan Inouye, who was listed as a possible witness in the case.

Stevens is charged with lying on Senate financial forms about more than $250,000 in home renovations and other gifts he received from powerful oil contractor VECO Corp.

While the charge is a simple paperwork violation, prosecutors have given the trial many of the trappings of a bribery case. They say VECO founder Bill Allen lavished Stevens with gifts and had a direct line into the senator's Capitol Hill office whenever he needed help.