Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens is an honorable, trusting man who was taken advantage of by a corrupt friend who provided expensive gifts, not the architect of a "master cover-up by a sinister senator," as portrayed by prosecutors at his corruption trial, his lawyer argued Tuesday.
The Justice Department is trying to twist skimpy evidence to make it seem that Stevens is a "mastermind of a conspiracy," instead of a respected World War II veteran whose Senate work kept him so busy he trusted others to renovate his remote Alaska cabin, famed defense lawyer Brendan Sullivan said.
"We're trying to convict an innocent man in this courtroom on an interpretation of evidence so far from real life it should make you sick," he told jurors.
The 84-year-old Stevens, the Senate's longest-serving Republican senator, is charged with lying on Senate financial disclosure forms about $250,000 in home renovations and other gifts he received from his friend, millionaire Bill Allen, who runs oil services company VECO Corp.
Stevens testified for three days and said he never asked for the rope lighting, furniture, gas grill, fully stocked tool chest or other items that kept appearing at his house.
He said he repeatedly pressed Allen to remove the unwanted items, and asked him frequently for bills for the renovation work that changed the modest A-frame cabin into a two-story home with wraparound decks, new electricity and plumbing, a sauna and a master-bedroom balcony.
"He's a very simple guy," Sullivan said. "He asked for no gifts, and he's got some guy foisting things" on him.
Prosecutors ridiculed Stevens' explanation as "nonsense" in their closing statements.
Prosecutor Joseph Bottini told jurors that Stevens surrounded himself with wealthy, generous friends who could be counted on to give gifts and who could be trusted to keep it quiet.
"Does anybody really believe that the defendant really can't get Bill Allen to stop giving him all this free stuff?" Bottini asked.