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Senior US senator loses bid to move trial

Senior US senator loses bid to move trial

A senior Republican senator cannot move his corruption trial from Washington to his home state of Alaska, a federal judge ruled Wednesday in a decision that could hamstring the powerful lawmaker's re-election bid.
The 84-year-old patriarch of Alaska politics, Stevens could normally expect to coast to his seventh six-year term in the Senate. But Democrats hope to capitalize on the lengthy FBI investigation and trial to capture the once-safe Republican seat.
Stevens had hoped to stand trial by day and campaign on nights and weekends. In a state where he is known as "Uncle Ted," he also could have faced a more sympathetic jury. Stevens was named the Alaskan of the Century in 2000, the state's largest airport is named after him, and he has earned a reputation for bringing billions in federal aid to the frontier state.
Wednesday's ruling puts a damper on his campaign plans. U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan said he would consider holding court only four days each week to make it easier for Stevens to fit in campaign trips to Alaska. But that could delay a verdict that Stevens hopes will clear his name before voters go to the polls.
"We want the verdict as far on this side of Election Day as possible," defense attorney Brendan Sullivan said in court Wednesday.
Stevens did not attend the court hearing. He is charged with lying on Senate financial disclosure forms about hundreds of thousands of dollars in home renovations and other gifts he received from VECO Corp., an influential oil services contractor.
Two VECO executives have pleaded guilty and admitted they bribed Alaska lawmakers, using gifts, jobs and cash to curry favor with allies and undermine their enemies.
Stevens' lawyers told the judge they had hoped jurors could visit the senator's ski resort chalet, which was renovated by employees of VECO Corp. His attorney argued the cost of those renovations is nowhere near the government's estimate. With the trial in Washington, such a visit will be impossible.
The Justice Department opposed the request, arguing that the alleged crime _ lying on Senate documents _ took place in Washington.
As for the value of the renovations, prosecutors say that's not the issue. The question, they say, isn't whether he received precisely $250,000 worth of work from VECO; it's whether the value exceeded the $260 limit that Senate rules say must be disclosed.


Updated : 2021-05-15 07:24 GMT+08:00