Allen Explains Grill, Lights

Posted October 6, 2008 at 6:46pm

Brendan Sullivan, the defense attorney for Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), spent much of the day Monday eliciting from government star witness Bill Allen statements indicating that the Senator did not request many of the things that Allen’s company provided at Stevens’ house.

Stevens is charged with seven counts of filing false statements over an eight-year period to conceal the receipt of more than $250,000 in gifts — primarily in the form of renovations to his Girdwood, Alaska, home — from Allen, who was the chief executive of the now-defunct oil services firm VECO.

[IMGCAP(1)]The government alleges that Allen provided a stream of things of value to Stevens, including major renovations on his home, a high-end gas grill, a snow-melting system for the roof of the home, furniture for the residence, and an extravagant Christmas lighting display that required installation of a separate electrical panel.

Allen on Monday repeatedly told the court that Stevens did not request these items, and that he provided them of his own accord.

For instance, the government has argued that the snow-melting system on the roof of the house was worth thousands of dollars, and that Stevens never paid for it.

But Allen testified Monday that he had the system installed because the roof had been improperly designed, creating huge sheets of ice that slid off and damaged the garage below.

“It was a mess-up,” Allen said, and he would not feel right charging Stevens to repair a mistake that had been made by his own workers.

Similarly, the extensive lighting system was meant as a nice surprise for the Stevens family, Allen said. “I wanted to put the lights up because I thought Ted would like it. … Ted didn’t ask for it.”

When Allen installed the gas grill at the home, “Ted didn’t ask for that,” he said. “I just thought it would be good for him because he was going to have probably a lot of barbecues.”

When Stevens saw the grill, he said, “This is not mine. This is yours. You are going to use that but not me,” according to Allen.

Allen said that even he did not know how much was being spent on the renovation project.

Allen said the two employees he had dispatched to work on Stevens’ house were both alcoholics who “really did screw up” renovations at his own home. “I never really seen how much the time or the money that was spent on Ted’s house,” Allen testified. “I’ve never seen an invoice. And so I had no idea how much. But I thought it was probably going to be too much.”

Sullivan asked Allen whether he had ever tried to bribe Stevens.

“No,” Allen replied.

“You knew you couldn’t bribe Sen. Ted Stevens, could you, sir?” Sullivan asked.

“No,” Allen replied.

But Allen also testified that there were a range of favors that he was doing for Stevens. For example, Allen said he was contacted by lobbyist Dick Ladd about getting Stevens’ son Walter a job with VECO.

Allen said Ladd called to say Stevens was “really trying” to get Walter a job, and asked Allen, “Is there any way that you could get him a job in Phoenix” where he lived. Allen said no, because they had no jobs in Phoenix, but he ultimately hired Walter Stevens for a job with VECO in Alaska.

Roll Call reported last month that Ladd at the time ran a lobbying firm called Robison International, which Stevens was paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for fundraising assistance for his campaign and political action committee. The firm was also representing clients seeking earmarks from the Appropriations Committee, which Stevens chaired from 1997 to 2004.

In telephone conversations recorded by the FBI and played for the jury Monday, Stevens repeatedly told Allen he believed they had done nothing wrong.

Allen testified that he was first contacted by the FBI on Aug. 30, 2006, about his involvement with Stevens. He agreed to cooperate with investigators, including agreeing that they could record his telephone conversations with the Senator.

In one of the calls, Stevens warned Allen that they should not attempt to disrupt the investigation, for fear of facing additional charges of obstruction of justice.

Stevens said he believed they had done nothing wrong, and added, “You got to have some faith in the system and some faith in the jurors.”

“These guys can’t really hurt us,” Stevens said. “They’re not going to shoot us.” The worst that could happen, he said, would be that they would run up some legal bills, “might have to pay a fine” or ultimately “spend a little time in jail.”

Allen also testified that Stevens asked him to provide a full billing for the work done on the house, but that Allen chose not to do so because it would have been difficult to extract invoices from VECO’s books.

The judge has said he will rule either late today or early Wednesday on the defense motion filed Sunday night requesting a dismissal of the case.

The defense has argued that the prosecution repeatedly failed to provide to Stevens’ legal team all of the exculpatory statements made by witnesses in grand jury testimony or in interviews with the FBI.

Sunday night, they argued that “the evidence is compelling that the government’s conduct was intentional.”

The government has rebutted these accusations, saying they have made every effort to provide Stevens’ lawyers all of the relevant information, and any omissions were simple errors. “Contrary to all of the theatrics and hyperbole from the defense,” they wrote in a preliminary response Sunday, “no one has attempted to hide evidence.