Monday, October 27, 2008

Ted Goes Down The Tubes

US Senator Stevens found guilty

The longest-serving Republican in the US Senate has been found guilty of lying about gifts worth $250,000 he received from an oil company.

Ted Stevens, 84, was charged with seven counts in connection with the gifts.

Mr Stevens faces up to five years in prison on each count but, under federal guidelines, is unlikely to spend much time in prison.

He is fighting a tough re-election battle against Democrat Mark Begich for his Alaskan senate seat.

During the trial, prosecutors gave details of the items given to Mr Stevens by the oil firm, Veco, including a massage chair, rope lighting, furniture, a gas grill and a fully stocked tool chest.

Veco also provided contractors to carry out home renovations at Mr Stevens's cabin in Girdwood, Alaska.

Bribery charges

Bill Allen, Veco's founder, pleaded guilty to bribery charges in May 2007.

Testifying to the court, Mr Stevens claimed that he had paid Mr Allen $160,000 for the work done, and had been under the impression that no more money was required.

And he had considered many of the gifts as loans - including the massage chair.

Prosecutor Joseph Bottini, in his closing argument, poured scorn on Mr Stevens's testimony.

"Does anybody really believe that the defendant really can't get Bill Allen to stop giving him all this free stuff?" he asked.

"Does anyone really believe he thought that [massage] chair was a loan? It's been in his house for seven years."

Polls suggest Mr Stevens is currently neck and neck with his Democratic rival in his bid for re-election, but correspondents say a guilty verdict in the trial can only damage his chances of victory.

Despite the guilty verdict, he is not required by law to drop out of the election or give up his seat.

And there is no rule barring felons from serving in Congress, so if he wins he will be allowed to stay in the Senate.

His fellow senators could opt to expel him, however, by a two-thirds vote.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2008/10/27 20:54:26 GMT

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