WASHINGTON – Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens lost a final attempt Tuesday to get his corruption indictments thrown out and end what could be a politically damaging trial before it begins in federal court next week.
U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan refused to throw out the Stevens indictment or stop federal prosecutors from presenting evidence about his discussions with or work concerning interests of an Alaska oil pipeline services company.
The 84-year-old Stevens, the Senate's longest-serving Republican, is set to stand trial on charges of lying in Senate disclosure records about hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts and home renovations he received from VECO Corp., an oil pipeline services company. VECO Corp. is now owned by Denver-based CH2M Hill.
He has pleaded not guilty to all seven counts and has pushed to get his trial completed before Alaskans vote Nov. 4 on his re-election.
Stevens did not appear at the Tuesday status hearing, but he will have to be in Washington for the trial while his Democratic opponent is campaigning in Alaska.
His lawyers had argued that the whole case is based on information related to his work as an Alaska senator. They also said the government wants to introduce evidence that would require Stevens to talk about his official work to defend himself.
The Constitution prohibits the executive branch, which includes the Justice Department, from using its law enforcement authority in a way that interferes with legislative business under what is called the "speech-or-debate" clause.
But Sullivan said Tuesday he did not see enough of a reason to throw the whole case out. He also said the prosecutors can use their evidence, but he will watch to be sure they don't go too far. Sullivan also said he expects defense lawyers to object to anything that violates Stevens' rights.
"Any potential violation can be thwarted at trial," Sullivan said.