Alaska senator, found guilty, won’t quit race

WASHINGTON — He was once third in line to the presidency, his power over Senate purse strings unrivaled. He favored an “Incredible Hulk” necktie, a warning not to rile him.

Yet Sen. Ted Stevens could hardly control his trembling hands Monday as the jury foreman read the verdict: Guilty on all seven felony charges of lying about a bonanza of home renovation gifts and favors he received from a millionaire oil contractor.

Stevens, 84 and the Senate’s longest-serving Republican, slumped in his chair and stared at the ceiling as his lawyer comforted him. He could face prison, and the verdict, barely a week before Election Day, threatened to end his 40-year Senate career in disgrace.

But after leaving court without speaking to reporters, Stevens released a fighting statement accusing prosecutors of misconduct, promising to appeal the verdict and pledging to stay in the race for re-election against Democrat Mark Begich.

“I ask that Alaskans and my Senate colleagues stand with me as I pursue my rights,” Stevens said. “I remain a candidate for the United States Senate. I will come home on Wednesday and ask for your vote.”

Stevens could face significant prison time, but under federal guidelines he may not actually serve any. The judge did not immediately set a sentencing date.

The monthlong trial revealed that employees for Veco Corp., an oil services company, transformed Stevens’ modest Alaska mountain cabin into a modern, two-story home with wraparound porches, a sauna and a wine cellar.

Stevens said he had no idea he was getting freebies. He said his wife handled the business of the renovation, and that he paid $160,000 and believed that covered everything.

Stevens’ conviction hinged on the testimony of Bill Allen, the senator’s longtime friend and the founder of Veco. He testified he never billed Stevens for the work on the house and the senator knew he was getting a special deal.

Prosecutors used a barrage of witnesses to question how Stevens could have been in the dark about Veco’s work on the project. Veco employees testified to seeing Stevens at the house. One left him a company business card. Stevens sent thank you notes to others.

If Stevens wins re-election, he can hold his seat because there is no rule barring felons from serving in Congress. The Senate could vote to expel him on a two-thirds vote.

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