Powell says Sen. Stevens' integrity "sterling"
Fri Oct 10, 2008 5:38pm EDT
By James Vicini
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said Sen. Ted Stevens had a "sterling" reputation for integrity as he vouched for the Alaska Republican at the lawmaker's corruption trial on Friday.
Stevens is accused of lying on his financial disclosure forms to conceal more than $250,000 in renovations to his home in Girdwood, Alaska, and other gifts from Alaska oil services firm VECO Corp and its former chief executive, Bill Allen.
Powell, appearing as a character witness for the defense, said during cross-examination by prosecutor Brenda Morris that he had no personal knowledge about the case against Stevens and had never been to Girdwood.
The 84-year-old Stevens is seeking re-election in November after 40 years in the Senate. Stevens, the longest-serving Senate Republican in history, has denied the charges.
A guilty verdict would make his re-election bid more difficult, meaning the trial's outcome could influence the Democratic Party's attempt to tighten its hold on the U.S. Senate.
Powell, a former Army general and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he had known Stevens for about 25 years.
Asked by defense lawyer Brendan Sullivan what the senator's reputation was for truth and integrity, Powell replied, "In a word, sterling." Powell added, "He was a trusted individual, someone you could rely on."
Defense lawyers say they hoped to call as many as 11 character witnesses for Stevens, although the judge said he would allow only five. Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, a Democrat, was the first defense witness on Thursday.
Defense lawyers have said Stevens and his wife paid about $160,000 for the renovations, and that the only bill they did not pay was one Allen failed to give them.
(Editing by Peter Cooney)