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Sen. Stevens Found Guilty In Corruption Case

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I'm Robert Siegel.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris. Alaska Senator Ted Stevens is guilty on all counts. The Senate's longest-serving Republican was convicted today of lying on his disclosure forums in order to conceal a quarter million dollars in gifts. The gifts came to him from an oil industry executive and other friends. NPR's legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg was in the courtroom, and she's here with us in the studio. Nina, can you describe the scene in that courtroom?

NINA TOTENBERG: Well, the jury of eight women and four men filed in, and the foreman, who works in a drug rehabilitation agency, stood to read the verdict. The judge read out each count, and the foreman's replies then came in a soft voice, guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty on all seven counts. Senator Stevens bowed his head after the first verdict, then raised it again and showed no further emotion. His wife sat in the front row, grim faced. The judge then postponed sentencing until next year, probably in early March sometime.

NORRIS: So, sentencing next year, but could Senator Stevens go to jail?

TOTENBERG: Oh, technically, he could get a maximum of five years on each of the seven counts, but that's unlikely. Even under the sentencing guidelines, he would get a lot less than that. And the judge has the power to sentence the 84-year-old Stevens to no time at all in jail.

NORRIS: And he's free until the sentencing hearing.

TOTENBERG: Right. He's free for now on his personal reconnaissance.

NORRIS: Ted Stevens has been in the Senate since 1968. He's now locked in a very fierce reelection battle as he tries to win his eighth term next Tuesday. How does this change his prospects looking ahead?

TOTENBERG: Well, he's one point behind in the polls. Obviously, this hurts his prospects, but they do love him in Alaska. They call him Uncle Ted. That's all one can say. I mean, he gambled that he would be acquitted, and he wasn't.

NORRIS: Nina, there's a lame duck session of Congress coming up. Will Ted Stevens be in chamber for that?

TOTENBERG: Well, he said, in the weeks leading up to the trial, put this down, that will never happen. I am not stepping down. So, I would assume he's going to be there because he can serve out his term. I am assuming he's not going to resign, and if he's reelected, the Senate rules don't require him to step down at any point, unless two-thirds of his colleagues would vote to expel him.

NORRIS: And under what circumstances might that happen?

TOTENBERG: Well, he has been convicted of seven felonies. I mean, if he goes to jail, or even if he doesn't go to jail, they could vote him off the island, as it were. But we're not there. He hasn't won reelection. This is, obviously, going to make it more difficult for him.

NORRIS: Nina, this was a very interesting trial, a lot of twists and turns and very interesting testimony. One of the jurors was dismissed, I understand, just yesterday.

TOTENBERG: That's right. One of the jurors, her father died. They couldn't contact her over the weekend. And they had planned to maybe hold the jury over until Tuesday if she could get back from California, but when they couldn't find her, they brought in an alternate. She started sitting this morning, and apparently, they were nine-tenths of the way there because, by this afternoon, they had a verdict.

NORRIS: Ted Stevens, throughout this, he and his legal team have been very, very confident, even though they faced some fairly serious charges. Going into deliberations and, I guess, the last hours of this trial, were they still confident?

TOTENBERG: It's hard to know. They put on a defense that was mainly the senator and his wife. They were not good witnesses for themselves, and what had started out as a terrible case for the prosecution, in which they had many missteps and almost had a mistrial at one point, ended up with, I think, most people in the courtroom thinking the odds were that he would be convicted of something.

NORRIS: NPR's legal affairs correspondent, Nina Totenberg. Thanks so much.

TOTENBERG: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Nina Totenberg is NPR's award-winning legal affairs correspondent. Her reports air regularly on NPR's critically acclaimed newsmagazines All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and Weekend Edition.