Judge Rejects Bid to Move Stevens’ Trial

Posted August 20, 2008 at 11:38am

Updated 1:37 p.m.

Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens (R) will stand trial in Washington, D.C., in September after a federal judge declined his request Wednesday to move the proceedings to an Alaska courtroom.

“The court denies the motion to transfer,” said Judge Emmet Sullivan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Stevens’ attorney, Brendan Sullivan, argued in court Wednesday that holding the case in D.C. could be a hardship for the 40 or so expected witnesses, most of whom must travel from Alaska.

“I can’t imagine why we’d bring 40 witnesses 7,000 miles roundtrip,” Brendan Sullivan said.

He had also argued that Stevens, who did not attend the hearing, would be impeded from campaigning for his re-election race in November if the trial took place outside of Alaska.

Government prosecutors contended that argument was disingenuous, however, noting that the court agreed to schedule a trial in advance of the November general election in response to Stevens’ request to do so.

“From the government’s side, we have more than a little heartburn about [the defense argument asserting] the disruption of Sen. Stevens’ business,” prosecutor Nicolas Marsh said.

In his decision, Judge Sullivan suggested that the court could hold trial on a four-day schedule, allowing Stevens to travel home for a three-day weekend to campaign.

Government prosecutors said they would accept a schedule for the trial — anticipated to last between two to four weeks — but Brendan Sullivan suggested the decision should be dependent on the pace of the trial after it has begun.

“Why don’t we start with the assumption we work a full week,” Brendan Sullivan said.