WASHINGTON – The Alaska Senate race in November could be decided in the next few days by 12 Washingtonians – the jury in the corruption case of Sen. Ted Stevens.
“The case is yours,” U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan told the eight women and four men about noon on Wednesday,a month after the case against the longest-serving Republican senator began.
The embattled Stevens faces seven felony counts of failing to disclose $250,000 in home renovations and gifts on Senate financial forms from 2000 to 2006.
Each count carries up to five years in federal prison.
The jury deliberated for a little over four hours before sending Sullivan a note asking if they could go home early,saying deliberations were “kind of stressful” and they needed a “minute of clarity right now.”
Sullivan told them: “Of course I'm going to let you go.”
Stevens is locked in a tight race with Anchorage Democratic Mayor Mark Begich. The senator asked for a speedy trial in hopes of being exonerated before Alaskans head to the polls Nov. 4.
Jurors have heard of gifts – more than $100,000 in renovations to his Girdwood,Alaska,chalet,a $29,000 bronze statue of migrating salmon and a $6,000 generator,among other freebies – Stevens was given by Bill Allen,a longtime friend turned government witness.
Allen was the head of VECO Corp.,a now-defunct billion dollar oil services company based in Alaska. He agreed to turn on Stevens as part of a plea deal for bribing Alaska lawmakers.
Sullivan told jurors they could take that deal into account when determining Allen's veracity.
Throughout his three-day testimony,Stevens claimed he and his wife paid every bill they got and that Allen stocked their house with goodies they did not know about.
The judge excused four alternate jurors and explained each of the seven counts to jurors before they began deliberations.
The first count alleges that Stevens concocted a scheme to hide the gifts on Senate disclosure forms.
The six other counts refer to the alleged false forms Stevens filled out. Stevens was required to disclose gifts above the Senate limits,which ranged from $260 to $305 during that time.
Stevens claimed he did not knowingly fill out false forms,as an accidental omission would not be illegal.
As for the jurors,Sullivan reminded them to wash out any outside influence in coming to their monumental decision.
“The verdict in this case is your sole and exclusive responsibility,” he instructed them.