WASHINGTON – A dour Sen. Ted Stevens returned to the witness stand Monday and sparred curtly with prosecutors in the final day of testimony at his corruption trial.
The Senate's longest-serving Republican, Stevens is charged with lying on Senate forms about $250,000 in renovations and other gifts he received from oil services contractor VECO Corp.
Stevens has said he never sought gifts and wouldn't even accept a free lunch, much less expensive remodeling services. But prosecutors say he used VECO as his personal handyman services.
Prosecutors seemed eager to bring out the senator's famous temper.
"You are more than willing to be treated just like anyone else? Is that correct?" prosecutor Brenda Morris asked.
"What?" Stevens snapped back.
"Withdrawn," Morris said, changing the subject.
Stevens was expected to face hours of tough cross-examination Monday. He was the last witness to be called in his own defense and prosecutors have said they will call no rebuttal witnesses. That means Stevens' testimony will be the lasting impression for jurors before closing arguments.
Though Stevens appeared testy, Morris seemed unfocused at times, raising topics and then drifting away from them without forcing Stevens into an answer. If jurors read that as evasiveness, it will help prosecutors. If it adds ambiguity or confuses the case in jurors' mind, Stevens will benefit.
The government's star witness, VECO founder Bill Allen, testified early at trial that his workers spent countless hours transforming Stevens' small A-frame cabin into a large, modern home with a sauna, wine cellar and wraparound porches.
Stevens says he relied on Allen to oversee the project but expected his friend to send him all the bills. Stevens says his wife, Catherine, paid every bill she received — $160,000 in all. Any freebies, Stevens said, were added on without their knowledge.
Morris pressed Stevens to acknowledge that he knew the foreman and other workers were VECO employees. But Stevens said that's not how he viewed it.
"He did work for VECO, yes, but when working at my house, he's working for me," Stevens said. "VECO was not involved in renovating my house."
Once an untouchable political force, Stevens faces a tough re-election fight and he's hoping for an acquittal before Election Day.