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Indicted senator to appear in court Thursday

  • Story Highlights
  • Sen. Stevens appears in the Senate Wednesday; in court on Thursday
  • Stevens received gifts from an Alaska energy company, indictment alleges
  • He is charged with making false statements on financial disclosure forms
  • If convicted, Stevens could face up to five years in prison
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Indicted Sen. Ted Stevens will make his first court appearance Thursday afternoon in Federal District Court in Washington, according to court records.

Investigators examined whether energy companies paid for improvements to Stevens' Alaska home.

Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, says he is innocent of the charges a grand jury handed up on Tuesday.

The Alaska Republican was charged Tuesday with scheming to conceal thousands of dollars worth of gifts from a major employer in his state, a company on whose behalf he sometimes intervened in Washington.

Stevens denies the charges.

"I am innocent of these charges and intend to prove that," the veteran lawmaker said in a written statement.

The seven-count indictment says Veco Energy paid for hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of work on Stevens' home over a period of about seven years. It says that he made false statements regarding the property on his mandatory Senate financial disclosure forms. Read the full indictment

Stevens is to appear Thursday before Judge Emmet G. Sullivan after an interview with court authorities in the morning, according to an order signed by Sullivan.

He will not necessarily enter a formal plea at the appearance, but may do so.

He appeared for work at a Senate committee hearing Wednesday, where Sen. George Voinovich, an Ohio Republican, greeted him with a pat on the back and a slight hug.

He left the committee around 11 a.m. and was mobbed by photographers and reporters. He told reporters Wednesday he would make a statement later, but refused to elaborate.

Stevens, the longest-serving Republican senator in history, has been a lightning rod for critics of pork-barrel spending in recent years.

In 2005, he backed a project to build what was derided as a "bridge to nowhere." The proposal called for construction of a $223 million bridge to connect Alaska's Gravina Island -- population 50 -- to the mainland. Congress later rescinded the earmarked funding for the bridge.

Stevens has not been arrested. The Justice Department said Tuesday he would be allowed to turn himself in.

If convicted, he could face up to five years in prison for each of the counts, although he could face a lighter penalty.

The indictment does not accuse Stevens of accepting bribes, said Matt Friedrich, the acting assistant attorney general.

"Bribery is not charged in this case," he emphasized in a news conference Tuesday, adding such a charge "requires proof of a specific quid pro quo. This indictment does not allege that." Video Watch Friedrich announce and explain the indictment »

But it does accuse Stevens and his staff of receiving requests from Veco for help in Washington and acting on some of them.

After the indictment was announced Tuesday, the Senate Select Committee on Ethics Chairman Barbara Boxer, D-California, and Vice Chairman John Cornyn , R-Texas, issued the following statement:

"The Senate Ethics Committee does not comment on pending matters or matters that may come before the committee. Absent special circumstances, it has been the long-standing policy of the committee to defer investigation into matters where there is an active and ongoing criminal investigation and proceeding so as not to interfere in that process."

On Wednesday, House Minority Leader John Boehner told reporters that the "American people have every right to expect the highest ethical standards from every member of Congress. . ... The American people deserve better and I would hope that all members would exhibit the kind of ethics the American people expect."

The indictment against Stevens follows a wide-ranging probe into ties between the company and lawmakers in Alaska.

Stevens issued a statement saying he has "never knowingly submitted a false disclosure form required by law as a U.S. senator."

He stepped down from leadership positions on Senate committees following the indictment.

"In accordance with Senate Republican Conference rules, I have temporarily relinquished my vice-chairmanship and ranking positions until I am absolved of these charges," he said.

Stevens was caught by surprise by the indictment, his colleague and friend Sen. Daniel Inouye told CNN.

"Apparently the media knew about it before he did," the Hawaii Democrat said Tuesday afternoon, adding he had just spoken to Stevens.

Stevens was meeting with Republican colleagues when the indictment was returned by a federal grand jury, and he was pulled out of the meeting, Inouye said.

"As far as he's concerned he's not guilty. And I believe him," he said.

The government charges that Stevens "knowingly and willfully engaged in a scheme to conceal ... his continuing receipt of hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of things of value" by failing to report them on his annual financial disclosure forms.

The indictment says home improvements provided by Veco and its chief executive officer, Bill Allen, whom the indictment calls a "personal friend of Stevens," included a new first floor, a new garage, a new first- and second-story wraparound deck, new plumbing and new wiring.

Allen gave Stevens a new 1999 Land Rover worth $44,000 in exchange for $5,000 and Stevens' 1964 Ford Mustang, which was worth less than $20,000 at the time, the indictment charged.

Stevens "could and did use his official position and his office on behalf of Veco," one of the state's largest employers, the indictment charges.

Allen pleaded guilty in May 2007 to paying out more than $400,000 "in corrupt payments" to Alaska officials, the Department of Justice said in announcing the Stevens indictment. Allen is cooperating with the Department of Justice as part of his plea agreement, Friedrich said. Veco was acquired by another company, CH2M Hill, in September 2007.

FBI and Internal Revenue Service agents searched Stevens' Alaska home in July 2007 in connection with the long-running Alaska corruption probe, which has already snared two oil-company executives and a state lobbyist, among others. At the time, Stevens urged constituents "not to form conclusions based upon incomplete and sometimes incorrect reports in the media."

The 84-year-old senator is a former chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and is renowned for his prowess in steering federal funds to his vast, sparsely populated state.

He has been active in politics in Alaska since before it became a state.

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He first came to Washington to work in President Dwight Eisenhower's White House in the 1950s. He then moved back to Alaska and ran for state representative. He was elected to the Alaska House in 1964, was appointed to the Senate in 1968 and has been re-elected since then. He is up for re-election this year.

He is the 11th senator in U.S. history to be indicted, according to the office of the Senate historian. Four were convicted or pleaded guilty.

CNN's Ted Barrett and Ed Hornick contributed to this report.

All About Ted StevensU.S. SenateU.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations

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