Monday, October 06, 2008

"Smoking Gun" Tape In The Ted Stevens Case Released, And It's A Very Weak Prop; Does Not Prove Criminal Intent On Ted Stevens' Part

The so-called "smoking gun tape" in the Ted Stevens trial alluded to in the opening statement by Federal prosecutor Brenda Morris was released on October 6th, 2008, and if it was indeed a "smoking gun", it was shooting blanks. It's a very weak prop for the prosecution to use.

The tape was one of three tapes released and now posted on the Anchorage Daily News' Alaska Politics blog. Both the audio and the written transcripts are accessible at the link. The three tapes are labeled "Exhibit 652 dated 8-31-06", "Exhibit 651 dated 9-10-06", and "Exhibit 650 dated 10-18-06".

The critical tape is Exhibit 650. Here are the key excerpts:

STEVENS: I was talking, to ... when I was talking to my lawyers, they told me that we, we ought to avoid trying to look like we're meeting in a situation where we wouldn't be overheard or having no one with us. They point out that, what's her name, that woman that uh, who went to jail, Martha Stewart?

ALLEN: Yeah.

STEVENS: She didn't go to, to jail because she did something wrong. She went to jail because she lied about a conversation she had with somebody.

ALLEN: Uh huh.

STEVENS: They say we should have no problem ... we can meet, you know have dinner, or what not. But we should not try to look like we're going to try to try to keep things from the world. And he, they said we ought to really lay low right now, because this grand jury is meeting. And if they got wind that it looked like we were going try to, you know, do what they call obstruct justice, they could call us before the grand jury on a different, different thing all together.

So, I think we ought to just sweat out this grand jury and see what's happening...

{snip}

ALLEN: No, I guess they haven't. When is this, when is this grand jury, when's that going to happen?

STEVENS: It's meeting as we speak.

ALLEN: Oh

STEVENS: Meeting right now. I don't think we've done anything wrong, Bill. I can tell you right now. I told my lawyers - I can't think of a thing we've done that's wrong. Now, some people go on the basis of what they call the appearance or image of wrongdoing, and these people who have filed these statements, I think they're partially political if not totally political.

But in any event, they're doing this around the country. And this same unit is involved in almost all those things. And they have a habit of filing additional charges when people try to prevent them from getting access. Or they try to, to work together to prevent them from establishing a case. So I think we gought to be very careful about this. Besides that, a lot of the things involved are corporate, as far as you’re concerned. They're not individual, they're corporate, and you, you own the corporation.

Some of the things you may have done yourself, but basically the things that have been done have been done by your corporate employees. So, you're in a different world in terms of this corporate thing. And it may well be that the corporation is going to get fined or something. But you ought to be careful not to get yourself
into the point where you're involved in it.

{snip}

STEVENS: It may be posible to talk to your lawyer, but when you're talking to me, you're on a regular wire.

ALLEN: Oh that's right. That's right.

STEVENS: So, but it, you know, it doesn't make any difference. Hell, I don't care what they ..(inaudible) I'd say the same thing I said if they were sitting here right in front of us. I'm not going to let these guys get us in a position where they can charge us with something just because we didn't do what they think we should do. They, they've got to go out make the case that we did something that, that is against the law. I don't think we have violated the law.

ALLEN: I don't think we have either, Ted. But, uh, you know, I, I - that lawyer has grilled me and grilled me on what they think they can do. He talks to them, I don't.

STEVENS: That's, that's the way it should be. But as a practical matter, the question is, what can they convince the jury, uh grand jury, to charge us with. That's the problem. But when I was a district attorney, I, I handled grand juries, lots of them. They're funny people, but they also are people from within the community. And your reputation and everything else comes into into this play, as far as grand juries are concerned. But I think, really, when you look at it. We ought to just cool it. I told Ben the same thing: just cool it, you know, go about our business and smile and have a happy face. You ought to get out and meet people and do things. Do the things you used to do and just keep going. If it's a violation of the elections law, that's a corporate violation. This thing, it shouldn't, it shouldn't get to your mind, old buddy.

ALLEN: Well it has been, I'll tell you.

STEVENS: Well but, you got to, you got to just stand back and say what's going to happen when it's all over. You got to get a mental attitude that these guys can't really hurt us. You know, they're not going shoot us. It's not Iraq. What the hell? The worst that can be done, the worst that can happen to us is we round up a bunch of legal fees and, and might lose and we might have to pay a fine, might have to serve a little time in jail. I hope to Christ it never gets to that, but, and I don't think it will. But I don't, I'm developing the attitude that I don't think I did anything wrong so I'm going to go right through my life and keep doing what I think is right.

ALLEN: Well, when this, when this grand jury is over, where are you going to be?

STEVENS: Grand juries meet about two or three days a month, Bill. They'll finish and then they'll go up and think about stuff and ask people to get more information on this or that and then they'll come back in about a month to five weeks. So it's not going to be over. They last about, their term is about 18 months.


The boldfaced part of the transcript is the part that has been played up as so-called "proof" of Senator Stevens' culpability. This is what was interpreted as the "smoking gun".

But when you examine the statement within the greater context of the transcript, you can immediately see that Ted Stevens and Bill Allen are primarily brainstorming, and Stevens is merely projecting a possible worst-case scenario. It also appears as if Ted Stevens is really conscious of the potential for an obstruction of justice situation to arise and is trying to prevent it from happening. He is also quite convinced of his innocence.

This "smoking gun" tape does not prove that Ted Stevens had the intent to commit a crime. Combined with Bill Allen's repeated testimony that he did not send Ted Stevens all the bills for the Girdwood cabin remodeling, a position Allen once again reiterated in new testimony on October 6th, this means the government's case is weak.

The Voice Of The Times has once again opined on the case, and considers it a thinly-disguised witch hunt. They can't understand why Judge Emmet Sullivan hasn't already called a mistrial despite two serious breaches of conduct by the prosecution. They suspect a third breach of conduct by the prosecution could provoke a mistrial. But they share my concern that the prosecution may be more interested in winning the case rather than promoting justice. Michael Nifong, anyone?

I'll be quite surprised if the jury convicts Ted Stevens.

1 comment:

  1. Don't bring Martha Stewart into this. This man is guilty by his own actions. Martha paid her dues, so it's time for stevens to pay for his crime. This is not about Martha.

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