Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK). 2005. photo official website.
Guilty Guilty Guilty
In good news to challenger Mark Begich, currently leading by 1% in the polls, Republican Senator Ted Stevens was found GUILTY ON ALL SEVEN CRIMINAL COUNTS.
The jury of eight women and four men deliberated for five hours Monday before returning guilty verdicts on all seven counts.
Prosecutors claimed that Stevens accepted $250,000 worth of gifts, primarily from now-defunct oil services company Veco Corp. and its former CEO, Bill Allen. Among the alleged gifts was the value of a home renovation project that transformed the senator's Girdwood, Alaska, home from a quaint cabin to a sizeable house, a $2,600 massage chair and a Viking gas grill.
The defense had said in court that the Stevens family paid more than $160,000 for the renovations, and Stevens testified that some of the gifts were instead loans, and others were left at his home by Allen. The defense contended that anything left off the disclosure forms was merely an oversight.
Each charge carries a maximum five years in prison and $250,000 fine.
Stevens, the longest-serving Republican senator, has been in office since 1968. During his four decades on Capitol Hill, he has become legendary for funneling millions in federal dollars to Alaska, including the "bridge to nowhere" project. Buildings and facilities all across Alaska, including the state's biggest airport, bear Stevens' name.
Associated PressThis does it for Alaska.
The verdict, coming just days before Election Day, adds further uncertainty to a closely watched Senate race. Democrats hope to seize the once reliably Republican seat as part of their bid for a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.
Stevens, 84, was convicted of all seven charges he faced of lying about free home renovations and other gifts he received from a wealthy oil contractor. Jurors began deliberating Wednesday at noon.
Stevens faces up to five years in prison on each count when he is sentenced Jan. 26, but under federal sentencing guidelines, he is likely to receive much less prison time, if any.
The monthlong trial revealed that employees for oil services company VECO Corp. transformed the senator's modest mountain cabin into a modern, two-story home with wraparound porches, a sauna and a wine cellar. Stevens never paid for VECO's work.
The Senate's longest-serving Republican, Stevens said he had no idea he was getting freebies. He said he paid $160,000 for the project and said he believed that covered everything.
Stevens asked for an unusually speedy trial, hoping he'd be exonerated in time to return to Alaska and win re-election. He kept his campaign going and gave no indication that he had a contingency plan in case of conviction.
Despite being a convicted felon, he is not required to drop out of the race or resign from the Senate. If he wins re-election, he can continue to hold his seat because there is no rule barring felons from serving in Congress. The Senate could vote to expel Stevens on a two-thirds vote.
Stevens is out and Begich is in. Although Digby advises caution. She says it isn't a done deal (and has some words about Sarah Palin as well.) I've learned to be careful about arguing with Digby, however in this case I think we will win, simply because I believe people want to go with a winner and want to ride the winning wave. Change is the winning wave and even in Alaska they're smart enough to see that.
Forty years as a US Senator (sworn in Dec 24, 1968), Ted Stevens is currently the longest serving Republican US Senator (see update below.) Widely considered to be also the most corrupt and in the midst of stiff competition for being the stupidest US Senator as well.
Alaska is well rid of him.
We already had his Senate seat counted at 59 Senate seats for us. We need Kentucky, Mississippi or Georgia to break our way to bring us to 60. And then one of the two Maine Senators to change parties, or at least go Independent and caucus with us, to give us 61.
This is a good day.
Though... not for everyone.
Someone really should ask Sarah Palin how she feels about Ted Stevens. *smiles*
Update: Originally I'd written that Stevens was the the longest serving US Senator. As was promptly pointed out in comments, three Democrats have served longer. Sorry. I've corrected this in the original text. In service to America as in much else, Democrats are simply kicking Republican ass.