WASHINGTON – Opening arguments in Sen. Ted Stevens' corruption trial are scheduled to begin Thursday, but it remains unclear whether jurors will ever hear from the Senate's longest-serving Republican.
The Alaska senator has said he plans to testify during his corruption trial, but he hedged that statement with the caveat that he will follow the advice of his lawyers. During jury selection, when a few jurors said Stevens should testify, attorney Brendan Sullivan reminded them that Stevens could sit on his hands and not say a word.
Testifying would expose Stevens, whose temper has a famously short fuse, to a broad and potentially devastating series of questions from prosecutors.
Stevens is charged with lying on Senate financial forms about more than $250,000 in home renovations and other gifts he received from powerful oil contractor VECO Corp.
While the charge is a simple paperwork violation, prosecutors have given the trial many of the trappings of a bribery case. They say VECO founder Bill Allen lavished Stevens with gifts and had a direct line into the senator's Capitol Hill office whenever he needed help securing grants or navigating Washington's bureaucracy.
The corruption investigation has rattled Alaska politics, turning prominent state lawmakers into convicted felons and making Stevens vulnerable to a legitimate Democratic challenge for his Senate seat in the Nov. 4 election.