Updated: 11:36 p.m.
As closing statements got under way Tuesday in the trial of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Bottini said the Senator accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars of free benefits from his friends and that he didnt report those gifts because he knew his friends were trusted associates who would cover for him.
The price is always right when its free, Bottini repeatedly told the jury.
Bottini said Stevens didnt report the gifts because he didnt want anyone to know that he was getting them. But disclosure laws require Members to report gifts they receive, and Stevens is not above the law, and he cant evade it just because he does not like it.
With Stevens wife sitting in the court room for the first time except for her turn in the witness stand last week closing statements began in the case Tuesday morning, and will continue for the rest of the day.
The jury is expected to begin deliberations Wednesday.
Stevens is charged with seven counts of failing to report gifts on his annual financial disclosure forms, including about $250,000 worth of renovations on his Alaska home from Bill Allen, chief executive officer of the now defunct oil services firm VECO.
Bottini repeatedly referred to Stevens defense that he didnt know VECO employees were working on the site, that he believed they were paying for it, that he was getting things that he didnt ask for and didnt like as nonsense.
Its nonsense, ladies and gentlemen, this notion that he didnt know that VECO was responsible for major renovations at his home.
Does it make any sense? Bottini asked, that Stevens did not know how a deck appeared on the front of his house, what it cost or who paid for it.
These were gifts given to him by Allen and by VECO, and he knew it, Bottini said.
When a reporter asked about the renovations in 2004, Stevens issued a statement saying that his wife had hired a general contractor to complete the upgrades. But thats not true it was a false statement manufactured by the defendant, Bottini said.
The Senators explanation of how he came to own a $1,000 sled dog, backed up by e-mails generated much later as he tried to complete his disclosure form, was a classic coverup. Bottini said Stevens knew his friends had bought the dog for him, but they created a story afterward that the dog was given to him by a charity they all supported.
Bottini again played for the jury the tapes of telephone conversations between Stevens and Allen shortly after the FBI first interviewed Allen in the case. In those conversations, Stevens told Allen that he was developing the attitude that they had done nothing wrong, and that the worst-case scenario was that they would have to spend a little time in jail.
Does that sound like someone who really believes he hasnt done anything wrong? Bottini asked.
Bottini said the case boils down to an elected public official who made a conscious decision to hide the fact that he was receiving these benefits.