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Judge declines to dismiss charges against Alaska senator

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  • NEW: Judge declines to throw out charges over withholding of information
  • Judge accused prosecutors of "gross negligence" in not sharing documents
  • Sen. Ted Stevens pleads not guilty to failing to report substantial gifts, services
  • Oil contractor did building work on home of Republican senator
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From Paul Courson
CNN
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A federal judge Thursday rejected a motion by defense attorneys asking him to either to declare a mistrial in the criminal case against Sen. Ted Stevens or dismiss the indictment against him.

Instead, Judge Emmet Sullivan ruled Stevens' trial will continue Monday.

Defense attorneys had claimed prosecutors belatedly turned over information that might be helpful to Stevens' case.

Sullivan said the information can be used by Stevens' attorneys as the trial proceeds.

Government prosecutors in the corruption trial had waited until Wednesday night to give the defense the documents, drawing a stern rebuke from Sullivan.

Stevens, the Senate's longest serving Republican, has pleaded not guilty to a seven-count indictment for filing false statements on mandatory financial disclosure forms.

Prosecutors say the annual forms should have included hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts from Bill Allen, founder of the Veco Corp. -- an oil field contractor and at that time Alaska's biggest employer.

Although the company was not known for residential construction, former employees have testified Allen and top aides directly asked them to work on Stevens' home in Girdwood, a ski town outside Anchorage, Alaska.

Allen himself is the government's star witness, and has been on the stand since Tuesday.

But Stevens' defense attorneys said prosecutors waited till Wednesday night to turn over crucial FBI notes on Allen. Those indicate that Allen believed that, had Stevens received invoices from the foreman or others for the Veco work, Stevens would have paid them.

Allen has testified he did not bill Stevens for some of the work.

The notes from the investigator indicate Allen did not fully bill for Veco's work because he felt the costs were higher than they need to be, and "partly because he did not want the defendant to have to pay."

On Wednesday, Allen acknowledged in testimony he failed to ask Stevens to pay for some work simply "because I like Ted."

The defense cried foul at getting the new information so late in the trial.

A visibly angry Sullivan agreed, saying, "It was gross negligence on the part of the government."

Prosecutors acknowledged the error but said it was unintentional.

"It was a human error," said prosecutor Brenda Morris. But "by the luck of God, Mr. Allen is still on the stand and they can cross-examine him."

"It shouldn't have to be lucky," Sullivan replied.

Defense attorney Brendan Sullivan told the judge that the prosecution's argument is "disingenuous and perhaps dishonest."

The judge said he found the mistake unbelievable. "I told the government what to do, and it didn't do it," he thundered. "Why shouldn't I dismiss the indictment?"

Morris maintained that Stevens is still receiving a fair trial, but the judge said, "the only reason he's (Stevens) getting a fair trial is because I'm here to see to it he's getting a fair trial. Thank goodness we don't have to rely on the United States to give him a fair trial."

The judge told jurors the trial would not proceed Thursday because "the attorneys and I need to address some issues that have come up. It has nothing to do with your job ... just go enjoy your day."

Prosecutors did not speak to reporters as they left the courthouse.

The government's attorneys have been in trouble with the judge three times during the trial.

The first time, the judge threatened to declare the government's case concluded when they ran out of available witnesses before the court's day was done.

The second time was over the unresolved decision by prosecutors to send a subpoenaed witness back to Alaska without telling the judge or defense attorneys.

But it was Thursday's controversy that seemed to provoke the judge the most.

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