Senator Ted Stevens has been indicted.
In an early afternoon press conference, Department of Justice, FBI, and IRS officials announced a 7-count indictment alleging Stevens made false statements regarding the renovation and expansion of his Girdwood, Alaska home, which was raided by federal agents a year ago.
Stevens will be allowed to turn himself in, said Matthew Friedrich, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division, at the conference.
According to the indictment, Stevens accepted more than $250,000 in gifts and home renovations from VECO, an oil-services company, including the construction of a second story and a wrap-around deck. Friedrich said Stevens also participated in a 1999 car swap in which VECO CEO Bill Allen traded a new Land Rover, worth $44,000, for Stevens’ ’64 Mustang, worth less than 20 grand.
Allen also gave him a new “permanently attached, professional Viking gas grill and a new multi-drawer, stationary tool storage cabinet.” Stevens did not disclose the gifts on his Senate ethics form, according to the indictment.
Allen who pleaded guilty to bribery charges last year, is cooperating with prosecutors.
Prosecuting the case is Principal Deputy Chief Brenda Morris, trial attorneys Nicholas Marsh and Edward Sullivan of the Criminal Division's Public Integrity Section, and assistant U.S. attorneys Joseph Bottini and James Goeke from the District of Alaska.
At the press conference, Friedrich was guarded in answering a reporter’s question about why Stevens was only being prosecuted for false statements.
“We always need to pay attention to the statute of limitations,” he said. “I’m not going to comment beyond that.”
The 28-page indictment does not allege a quid-pro-quo arrangement with Alan or VECO. It does, however, state that in the time period he received VECO’s gifts, Stevens “received and accepted solicitations for multiple official actions” aiding VECO projects overseas, the company’s attempts to secure federal grants and contracts, and its efforts to construct a gas pipeline.
The indictment makes the Republican Senator the highest-ranking official to be charged in a corruption probe that has already netted 7 state senators, lobbyists, and oil services executives.
Stevens is up for election in November, a fact that Friedrich says did not affect Justice’s decision to bring charges. Referring to a memo by Attorney General Michael Mukasey reiterating Justice’s policy against unnecessary political interference earlier this year, Friedrich said “that policy has been followed to the letter in this case.”
Legal Times wrote about Stevens' legal troubles and Alaskan earmark lobbying last year. A call to Williams & Connolly's Brendan Sullivan, who was hired by Stevens shortly before the Girdwood raid, was not immediately returned.
Still under investigation are Stevens' son, Ben Stevens, and Alaska's only House Representative, Republican Don Young.
One question will be whether the indictment has ramifications for Stevens' committee assignments. Currently, he's the ranking member on the defense appropriations subcommittee and vice chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.