Sen. Ted Stevens would like to be tried in Alaska, and soon. It looks like he'll get at least the second part of his wish.
At the Republican senator’s arraignment in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia this afternoon, Judge Emmet Sullivan set a rough date of Sept. 24 for Stevens' trial on making false statements. The quick pace came at the request of Stevens' attorney, Williams & Connolly's Brendan Sullivan Jr., who said the senator hopes to "clear his name before the general election."
(Bear with us -- the arraignment had three Sullivans: the judge, the defense attorney, and Justice Department lawyer Ed Sullivan, who did not speak.)
"It is the first time in my life I've asked for a speedy trial," Brendan Sullivan joked, stressing the government's timing left him little recourse. Stevens would only need a week to present his defense, Sullivan said. "This is not a complex case."
Brenda Morris, principal deputy chief of Justice's Public Integrity Section, largely agreed to the timeline. The government's case would take three weeks to present, she said. After a recess to determine if he could find space in his calendar, Judge Sullivan acceded to the request.
The defense's requested venue change might prove trickier, as Morris objected to moving the case out of the District. But observing that most of the prospective witnesses are in Alaska -- a state where Stevens, currently the Senate’s longest serving Republican, is known as "Uncle Ted" -- Brendan Sullivan said he intended to file a motion for change of venue.
Sullivan ran the entire show for the defense. Arriving 40 minutes early, he chatted with Stevens and Williams & Connolly partner Robert Cary. When it came to enter a plea, Stevens walked forward, but did not speak.
"We plead not guilty, your honor," Sullivan said. Turning to his client a moment later, he suggested, "Why don't you sit down?" Stevens, who was wearing a rumpled gray suit, did and remained silent for the rest of the arraignment.
Asked whether the government had offered any plea bargains in the case or planned to, Morris said no. Later in the hearing, she backtracked. "There are no plea offers at this time, just to be clear," she told Judge Sullivan.
Hashing out a timeline for discovery went smoothly. The prosecution agreed to turn over everything it deems discoverable -- including what Morris described as "videotape, audiotape, consensual monitoring" -- on a 500-gigabyte disk, prompting a later joke from Brendan Sullivan.
"I never did get what a gigabyte is," Sullivan said, prompting Morris to reiterate that the disk needed to have a 500-gigabyte capacity.
"We'll give you 501," Sullivan responded.
The remainder of the arraignment was devoted to scheduling matters. It ended around 2:20 p.m. Stevens was released on his own recognizance and a promise to surrender his passport. With photographers and video crews stationed at every door of the courthouse, he walked without speaking to the 3rd Street exit with his wife Catherine and his attorneys. A black Cadillac was waiting for him.
From a client of Sullivan's, the silence was hardly unexpected.
"Sullivan's not going to talk to us after this, is he?" one reporter asked another during a quiet moment in the arraignment.
"I don't think so,” the other responded. "He never talked to us during the Oliver North trial."