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Inouye serves as character witness in Stevens' corruption trial

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  • NEW: Sen. Inouye on Sen. Stevens: "His word is good"
  • Stevens is accused of failing to report renovations to his home
  • Defense objects to foreman's testimony on payroll records
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From Paul Courson
CNN
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii testified Thursday that he has never known Sen. Ted Stevens to tell a lie during their 40 years of service together in the Senate.

Inouye, a Democrat, was the first witness defense attorneys called on behalf of Stevens, an Alaska Republican who is fighting a seven-count indictment for allegedly lying on mandatory financial disclosure forms.

"His word is good, as far as I'm concerned, good enough to take to the bank," Inouye, a Democrat, told defense attorney Brendan Sullivan.

Before Inouye began his testimony as a character witness, Judge Emmet Sullivan denied a defense motion to acquit Stevens. The senator from Alaska is charged with accepting and failing to report to the Senate more than $250,000 in gifts, including home renovations that primarily came from Veco, an oil-services company.

Three other witnesses, all from Alaska, followed Inouye on the witness stand to testify about the value of a sled dog listed among the gifts prosecutors believe Stevens was required to report.

One of the witnesses was the source of a Siberian husky that Stevens acquired, and testified the puppy was a "runt" worth $100 or less.

On Friday, the jury is scheduled to hear character witness testimony from former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who also is a retired Army general.

Stevens and Inouye are World War II veterans.

"We had one thing in common as veterans: We shared common values," Inouye said.

The afternoon testimony for the defense started later than expected, because the judge first had to hear arguments on the defense motion for Stevens' acquittal. Defense attorney Craig Singer said the government had failed to prove that the value of the renovations to the senator's chalet in the Alaskan ski town of Girdwood was greater than the undisputed amount Stevens paid -- $166,000.

Prosecutors claim the senator received free labor and materials that he was required to report. And prosecutor Nicholas Marsh said the value was less important than the reporting process.

"Failure to disclose the information is material to the place where the forms go," he said. "It's not each individual gift; it's the process. Failure to comply with the form is what the Committee on Ethics takes very seriously."

Earlier Thursday, the judge granted prosecutors' last-minute request to call another witness, Dave Anderson. Anderson's payroll records for time spent on renovations at the senator's Alaska chalet had been thrown out as "lies" by the judge, who strongly rebuked the prosecution for entering them as evidence.

As a way of sanctioning the prosecution, the judge said he would instruct the jury to disregard the business documents and related testimony from an accountant.

"The government knew the documents were lies, and had an obligation to tell the court," the judge said Wednesday.

Anderson, a Veco foreman on the Stevens project, told investigators before Stevens was indicted that he billed his company for hours he didn't work.

Defense attorneys objected Thursday to the judge's decision to let Anderson testify, but failed to persuade him to delay Anderson's appearance until later in the trial.

All About Ted StevensVECO CorporationAlaska

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