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Heavyweights named as potential witnesses in Stevens trial

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  • NEW: Three U.S. senators, Colin Powell listed as potential witnesses
  • Ted Stevens won primary under indictment, wants trial over by November elections
  • Indictment: Stevens failed to report home improvements from oil services contractor
  • Stevens has said he "never knowingly submitted a false disclosure form"
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From Paul Courson
CNN
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Sens. Orrin Hatch, Ted Kennedy and Patrick Leahy are among the prospective witnesses in the corruption trial of U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, according to a list read to the jury pool Monday as part of finding a qualified panel for the trial.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell also is among the more than 200 names on the list.

Stevens, 84, is fighting a seven-count indictment accusing him of filing false financial statements on mandatory Senate disclosure forms.

The indictment says he failed to report hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of repair work on his Alaska home paid for by Veco Energy, an oil services contractor and one of the largest employers in Alaska.

Stevens is not accused of accepting bribes. Read the indictment (pdf)

Stevens arrived with his defense team at the federal courthouse nearly two hours before Monday's proceeding began. He did not speak to reporters and the gaggle of cameras on arrival or departure.

The jury pool heard a summary of the case, and lawyers from both sides introduced themselves to the large group assembled in the ceremonial courtroom, where they were left to answer a list of questions to determine whether they are qualified to serve.

Among those summoned for jury duty in the Stevens trial was Fox News reporter Catherine Herridge, a resident of Washington.

The witness list, the judge explained, was an opportunity for prospective jurors to indicate that they know any of the people who may be called to testify.

Lead defense attorney Brendan Sullivan asked the senator to stand as he introduced him to the potential jury panel that will weigh his guilt or innocence.

Stevens did not make any remarks in the courtroom.

It was his first appearance at the courthouse since he entered his plea of not guilty on July 31.

Stevens, up for re-election in November, has requested that the trial be expedited in hopes he can clear his name before voters head to the polling booths.

He has continued to campaign since his indictment was announced, and he handily won the GOP primary less than a month after he was indicted. Stevens has been in the Senate since 1968 and is the longest-serving Republican in Senate history.

"I've urged Alaskans not to make a judgment about this situation until all the evidence is in," Stevens told reporters in Alaska on Saturday.

He has pleaded not guilty, saying in a statement that he has "never knowingly submitted a false disclosure form required by law as a U.S. senator." He stepped down from his leadership posts on Senate committees after the indictment.

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

Along with the failure-to-report charge, the indictment also says Veco asked Stevens to intervene on its behalf in Washington and that he sometimes did.

The indictment says Veco and its chief executive officer, Bill Allen, provided home improvements, including a first floor, a garage, a first- and second-story wraparound deck, plumbing and wiring.

Allen pleaded guilty in May 2007 to paying out more than $400,000 "in corrupt payments" to Alaska officials, the Justice Department said in announcing Stevens' indictment.

Defense attorneys believe prosecutors may try to confuse the jury with courtroom references to activity that is not illegal as part of the legislative work of a senator.

Saying he is cautious about making comments a judge could perceive as trying to influence the jury, Stevens did not offer any reaction to details about the government's case that have come out during pre-trial conferences in the past few weeks.

"I have entered my plea and said I'm innocent of the charges. I think the trial will show that," Stevens said.

He added that in the past three months of campaigning around Alaska, "there's been overwhelming support and kindness shown to me about this, and that has sustained me and my family."

All About Ted StevensAlaskaU.S. Department of Justice

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