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Colin Powell testifies Stevens' word is 'sterling'

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  • NEW: Powell said Stevens a "trusted individual whose word you could rely on"
  • GOP Sen. Ted Stevens, 84, facing corruption charges in federal court
  • Health problems scratch Sen. Ted Kennedy from witness list
  • U.S. Capitol Police officer expected to testify on Stevens' honesty
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From Paul Courson
CNN
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell testified in Sen. Ted Stevens' corruption trial Friday, saying the Republican from Alaska has a "sterling" character.

"He was a trusted individual whose word you could rely on," said Powell, a retired four-star Army general who spent about 40 years in public service.

"Never heard a single dissenting word," Powell, appearing for the defense as a character witness, said. "When you shook hands with Ted Stevens, it would benefit the nation in the long run."

Powell said he worked closely with Stevens when he led the Senate Appropriations Committee, and there was "nothing to ever suggest a lack of integrity."

Powell was Friday's headline defense witness. He resigned from his post as secretary of state in the Bush administration in November 2004.

Powell spent about an hour at the courthouse Thursday preparing to testify, but was sent away after the opening of the defense phase of the trial was delayed.

Stevens, 84, is accused of accepting and failing to report to the Senate more than $250,000 in gifts and services, including home renovations that primarily came from Veco Corp., an oil-services company that does a lot of business in Alaska. He faces seven counts of making false statements. Video Watch InSession's Jami Floyd sum up Stevens' legacy in Alaska »

On Friday, the chief municipal tax assessor for Anchorage testified that the renovations to the senator's lodge were valued around $106,000 for tax assessment purposes using an automatic cost calculation.

Don Martin McGee said the chalet was inspected in August 2001 by appraisal analyst Shan Forshee, who noted that the house had been elevated and there were several additions, including a garage, 1 bathrooms and a bedroom.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan has expressed concern about whether comments by a lot of defense witnesses might become redundant, but Stevens' attorneys wrote that given the Republican senator's long career, the witnesses "come from different communities and different walks of life."

Democratic Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii testified Thursday that he and Stevens shared "common values" as veterans of World War II. Inouye has served in the Senate for about 46 years; Stevens about 40 years.

The defense has proposed questioning as many as 10 such witnesses, but Sullivan said Thursday he may limit the list to five or fewer.

Longtime Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts was on a list of potential witnesses, but his health problems make it unlikely he will testify, a court document states.

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Lesser-known prospective character witnesses include Michele Gonzales, a U.S. Capitol Police officer who was once head of Stevens' security detail.

"Ms. Gonzales will testify to the senator's reputation for honesty among the senator's security force, and her personal opinion of Sen. Stevens' truthfulness," a defense filing says.

CNN's Paul Courson and Deb Krajnak contributed to this report

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