Stevens signals he could testify

Stevens Trial
Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, and his daughter Beth Stevens, arrive at federal court in Washington on Tuesday. Jose Luis Magana / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Sen. Ted Stevens signaled Tuesday he may be leaning toward testifying in his own defense at his corruption trial.

In newly filed court papers, the veteran Alaska lawmaker's name appeared Tuesday for the first time on an evolving list of possible defense witnesses who could take the stand this week. The list also includes his wife, Catherine, and Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch.

Defense attorneys said that Hatch, a Utah Republican, would testify Tuesday afternoon as a character witness. Last week, former Secretary of State Colin Powell and Democratic Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii appeared on Stevens' behalf.

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 Allen, the former chief of giant oil services company VECO Corp.

Defense attorneys have depicted Catherine Stevens as the person who truly oversaw the massive conversion of the modest A-frame cabin into a two-story home with wraparound decks, new electricity and plumbing, a sauna and a master-bedroom balcony.

Steven claims he paid little attention
The senator, who spends more time at his home in Washington than in Alaska, says he paid little attention to the project. He says he assumed the $160,000 they paid for the project covered everything.

Augie Paone, a local contractor hired by VECO, testified Tuesday that the Stevenses paid him tens of thousands of dollars. He took the job with the understanding, "I was going to present all the bills to the senator," he said.

The defense also called one of the senator's daughters, Susan Covich, to back claims that Allen added his own extras like a fancy gas grill because he used the cabin himself to socialize while Stevens was away. She described stopping by her father's home one night to break up a long drive, but left after seeing strange cars parked outside.

"It just got too creepy, so I just drove on," she said.

The daughter also said her son once was employed by VECO — a hire that prosecutors list among the favors Allen showered on Stevens. But she also testified that Stevens' grandson wasn't protected from being fired once the company found out he had a drug habit.

The corruption investigation has rattled Alaska politics and made Stevens vulnerable to a Democratic challenge for his Senate seat in the Nov. 4 election. Sitting in the courtroom instead of campaigning in Alaska, Stevens has had to rely on proxies and technology to make his case to his constituents.