Monday, September 24, 2007

Case Of Former Alaska State Representative Pete Kott Now Delivered To The Jury

Anchorage Daily News (ADN) reporter Sean Cockerham is currently on the scene at the federal courthouse in Anchorage and has just reported that both the defense and the prosecution have presented their closing arguments in the Pete Kott (pictured at left) trial and the judge has now delivered the case to the jury. Cockerham is blogging the trial and presenting his accounts on the ADN-sponsored Alaska Politics blog.

Click HERE for all previous posts on Pete Kott.

Judge John Sedwick has just read the jury their instructions and sent them to lunch. They will begin their deliberations this afternoon (September 24th, 2007).

In the defense's closing argument, Kott’s attorney, Jim Wendt, portrayed Kott as a hard worker wrongfully ensnared in a federal probe into corruption of others. Wendt said U.S. Senator Ted Stevens had his house redone by Veco, Ben Stevens (the senator's son) received hundreds of thousands in contracts from Veco, and then-state Rep. Tom Anderson got a Veco consulting contract. In contrast, Pete Kott got nothing.

Wendt also played the "alcohol" card once again, saying that the secretly-recorded FBI video played at the trial merely showed only that when Kott drank too much he would “shoot his mouth off” in an effort to impress Veco chief Bill Allen, a man that Kott loved and admired.

Wendt also played the "informer" card, reminding the court that both former executives Bill Allen and Rick Smith are just trying to save their own skins by pleading guilty and agreeing to cooperate with the government and testify against Kott. However, he portrayed Rick Smith as the "heavy" in that deal.

Wendt also pointed to testimony showing that Suite 604 in the Baranof Hotel in Juneau, where the FBI had recorded Veco executives and Kott discussing legislative strategy, was known in legislative circles as “Animal House.” where it was customary for people to engage in alcohol-fueled banter.

Wendt also said the federal prosecutors cherry-picked the worst statements out of hundreds of hours of video recording and thousands of intercepted phone calls, the vast majority of which jurors never heard. He claimed that the statements presented were taken out of context.

Wendt also reminded the court that despite Kott's boasts to Veco executives, he never made his fellow lawmakers change their votes on oil taxes. [Ed. Note: Sorry, but my previous post on this case directly rebuts that claim - Kott clearly was twisting Sen. Fred Dyson's arm.]

Click HERE for a Daily News archive of all the related FBI audio tapes.

U.S. Attorney James Goeke provided the prosecutions's closing argument. To rebut the defense claim that Kott got "Nothing" out of the deal, he reminded the court that Veco executives gave Kott $1,000 in cash, $7,993 in an inflated flooring invoice, an offer of a job, and a poll to help in Kott’s re-election campaign.

However, Goeke then used most of Kott's own words to help with his summation. He replayed to the jurors several of the secretly recorded FBI videos and tapped telephone conversations between Kott and the Veco executives that jurors heard at the trial. Some of the key snippets:

(1). The phone message that Kott left Allen the night before the 2006 legislative session began, in which Kott said, “Things start tomorrow; I just want to get what your instructions are.” Goeke used this to illustrate that Kott preferred to get his marching orders from VECO rather than from his Eagle River constituents.

(2). A recording of a Sept. 2005 telephone conversation in which Kott tells Veco executive Smith he needs a job. “You got a job, get us a pipeline,” Smith replied on the recording.

(3). The now-infamous recording of Bill Allen telling Kott “I own your ass.”

(4). Another recording in which Kott tells Allen he wants to be a lobbyist. “Well, you will be,” Allen said.

Goeke's intent is to show that these were not "flukes", but part of a systemic pattern of corrupt behavior, motivated simply by "greed".

Goeke readily conceded that Allen and Smith are "captive" witnesses because of their coerced relationship with the government, and advised jurors to be careful about weighing their testimony. But Goeke also said the jurors can’t deny the Veco executives' testimony matched the recordings. His point: That the testimony of Allen and Smith, tainted as it might be, was amply corroborated by non-tainted sources.

The evidence in this case is overwhelming,” Goeke summed up.

Analysis: I think Kott's lawyer, Jim Wendt, might have implicitly conceded Kott's guilt on Friday Septemeber 21st when he suddenly played the "alcohol card" or switched to what the Daily News called the "Hillbilly Defense". This was designed to portray two Pete Kotts - the mild-mannered Clark Kent-type Pete Kott when sober, and a completely different Pete Kott after he had a few. Looks like a subtle shift from a position of absolute innocence to a position of "impaired" guilt.

And the evidence against him is voluminous and persuasive. The only reason I see for a verdict delay is if any jurors need to go through the mountains of evidence, in particular, the large catalogue of FBI audio tapes.

I predict a guilty verdict on all charges no later that the end of this week.

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