For at least several days now, the movable scales of justice behind U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan, in Courtroom No. 24A of the federal courthouse, have been hanging in favor of the defense. And not by a slight margin, either. Judging by the position of the scales, the defense lawyers representing Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens had nothing to worry about.
The unbalanced scales caught the eye of lawyers in court this morning, and Judge Sullivan’s courtroom deputy, Carol Votteler, pushed the scales into equilibrium. Votteler asked aloud how long the scales had been hanging that way. The scales were balanced at the start of trial in late September. Jurors were not in court when Votteler made the fix. No word on who pushed the scales out of harmony.
At noon, eight women and four men retired to begin deliberating whether or not Sen. Ted Stevens intentionally filed false Senate financial disclosure reports to conceal more than $250,000 in gifts and home renovations between 2000 and 2006. “The case is yours,” Judge Sullivan said after dismissing the four alternates. One of the alternates, a man, blew a kiss to the panel as he walked out of court. The seated jurors waved to him.
Justice Department prosecutors allege Stevens orchestrated a scheme to conceal the gifts and home renovations to keep secret the extent of his relationship with the primary source of the goods, Bill Allen, former owner of the oil services company VECO. But the Williams & Connolly defense team said the case against Stevens has nothing to do with VECO. “I am sick of hearing VECO!” chief defense counsel Brendan Sullivan Jr. bellowed Tuesday in closing argument.
In his jury instructions, Judge Sullivan told jurors not to speculate on the reasons certain records in evidence have been redacted. The redactions were a sanction for what the judge deemed government misconduct in knowingly presenting false evidence to jurors.
Stevens and his wife, Catherine, a partner at Mayer Brown, left court with the defense lawyers after the jury retired to begin deliberation. Judge Sullivan said jurors will end deliberation at 4:45 p.m. daily.