Here's a transcript of this morning's news conference announcing the indictment of Sen. Stevens.
DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE PRESS CONFERENCE SUBJECT: INDICTMENT OF SENATOR TED STEVENS (R-AK) PARTICIPANTS: MATTHEW FRIEDRICH, CRIMINAL DIVISION, DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE; STEPHEN TIDWELL, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION,DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE; VICTOR SONG, INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OFTREASURY LOCATION: DOJ HEADQUARTERS, WASHINGTON, D.C. TIME: 1:45 P.M. EDT
DATE: TUESDAY, JULY 29, 2008
MR. FRIEDRICH: Good afternoon.
My name is Matt Friedrich and I am the acting assistant attorney general for the Criminal Division. With me here today is Steve Tidwell, who is an executive assistant director and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Also with me is Victor Song, who is thedeputy chief of the Criminal Investigations Division of the Internal Revenue Service.
Earlier today, a federal grand jury here in the District ofColumbia returned an indictment charging United States Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska with seven felony counts of making false statements.
The charges relate to false statements that Senator Stevens is alleged to have made on his mandatory financial disclosure forms,filed for calendar years 1999 through 2006.
According to the indictment, as a member of the United States Senate, Senator Stevens was required to file financial disclosure forms with the secretary of the Senate.
A primary purpose of such forms is to disclose, monitor and deter conflicts of interest and maintain public confidence, in the United States Senate and its membership.
These forms, which are publicly available, require the person filing them to disclose, among other things, whether or not the filer had received any gifts or had any liabilities or debts.
As to gifts, the filer was required to disclose gifts from any single source over a particular threshold amount that varied year by year.
For example, between 2003 and 2006, that threshold amount was $305, such that anything over that amount was required to be disclosed.
As to liabilities, the filer was to -- was required to disclose any liability or debt owed by the filer or his spouse or dependent children in an amount greater than $10,000, as well as the identity of the individual or entity to whom each debt was owed.
The indictment charges that while he was sitting as a United States senator between 1999 and 2006, Senator Stevens accepted gifts from a privately held company known as VECO, its chief executive officer and others. VECO was an oil field services company and operated on an international basis. VECO was one of the largest private employers in the state of Alaska.
The gifts Senator Stevens is alleged to have received include substantial amounts of material and labor used in the renovation of a private residence which Senator Stevens and his wife owned, located in the town of Girdwood, Alaska. These renovations are alleged to have included the addition of a new first floor with multiple bedrooms and a bathroom, as well as a finished full basement. VECO contractors and employees performed a significant portion of these renovations.
For example, VECO and its employees and contractors are alleged to have provided architectural designs for the renovation; assisted in lifting up the residence and installing a new first floor; installed electrical, plumbing, framing, heating and flooring materials; installed a first-floor wraparound deck; installed a plastic roof between the first and second-floor decks; installed a heat tape system on the roof; and performed gutter repair and electrical work.
The indictment also alleges that Senator Stevens received other gifts from VECO and its CEO, including household goods, furniture, a new Viking gas range, a tool storage cabinet, and an automobile exchange in which Senator Stevens received a new vehicle worth far
more than what he provided in exchange.
According to the indictment, the total amount of gifts that Senator Stevens is alleged to have received over the duration of the offense is greater than $250,000. Also according to the indictment, these items were not disclosed on Senator Stevens' financial disclosure forms which he filed under penalties of perjury, either as
gifts or as liabilities. And further, that Senator Stevens did not reimburse or repay VECO or its chief executive officer for these items.
I would ask you to keep in mind a few final points before I close. First, let me remind you again that what I have described today are allegations which have been made in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury. In terms of where we are now procedurally in this case, we are at the very beginning of the criminal process because an indictment has just been returned. Like any other criminal defendant, Senator Stevens is presumed innocent unless and until he's proven guilty in a court of law.
Second, in terms of answering any questions that you may have about the indictment, I'm going to need to stick to the four corners of the indictment and I will not be able to go beyond what the indictment alleges in answering questions that you may have about the
specifics of the charges announced today.
As you may know, in about 2004, federal law enforcement agencies began an investigation into public corruption in the state of Alaska.
The fact of this investigation became publicly known with the execution of search warrants at VECO and other locations in Alaska in August of 2006. To date, that investigation has resulted in seven convictions.
Among those who have been convicted are Pete Kott, the former speaker of the Alaska House of Representatives; Bill Allen, the former CEO of VECO; and Richard Smith, a former vice president at VECO; William Bobrick, a former lobbyist in anchorage; and Thomas Anderson, a former lobbyist -- excuse me -- and Thomas Anderson, a former Alaska state representative. That investigation is continuing.
Finally, I would like to thank the team assigned to this
investigation, which includes prosecutors from the Public Integrity Section of the Criminal Division, as well as AUSAs -- assistant United States attorneys -- from the Alaska U.S. Attorney's Office. It alsoincludes, from the FBI, agents from the Anchorage Field Office; andfrom IRS, CID agents from their Seattle Field Office.
With that, I'm happy to take some questions. Yes?
Q Matt, if Senator Stevens is convicted, what's the maximum penalty that he would face?
MR. FRIEDRICH: You know, I know a lot of times when the department issues releases, they will issue a statutory maximum, which is taken by the statutory max per count and multiplying it by the number of counts. That is usually something grossly in excess of whatever any sentence is that ultimately comes down, so I don't -- you can look that up. I don't want to start trumpeting what the statutorymax would be.
Q Why did the Justice Department go after disclosures as opposed to other statutes -- the tax statute or gift ban statute? Whydid you-all go after disclosures?
MR. FRIEDRICH: You know, in terms of -- I guess the best way to answer that, in terms of "woulda, shoulda, coulda" on other charges,
again, as I alluded to, I really need to stick to what's charged here
in terms of the indictment. The indictment is pretty detailed. I
think if you take a look at it, it lays out pretty clearly what our
basis is for what we brought.
Q Just to follow on that, is there any kind of statute of
limitations issue that dealt with what statutes you all went after in
MR. FRIEDRICH: We always need to pay attention to statute of
limitations. Beyond that, I'm not going to comment.
Q To try it another way, you have charged false statements,
but in your press release you allege that he used his position on
behalf of VECO, suggesting a quid pro quo. Can you help us square
MR. FRIEDRICH: Let me refer you to paragraph 17 of the
indictment, which alleges that at the same time that Senator Stevens
was receiving these things of value, over that same time period he was
also being solicited by VECO to do certain things, which he on --
which he or his staff on occasion did.
The indictment does not allege a quid pro quo.
In the back.
Q (Off mike) --
MR. FRIEDRICH: I'm sorry. In the red.
Q This is a sitting senator, and obviously it's unprecedented
to have a raid on his home. How far up the chain did you have to go
in terms of the politics of indicting someone of this stature?
MR. FRIEDRICH: Yeah, I guess I would say is -- that we followed
the course that we follow internally in terms of getting indictments
approved. Beyond that -- beyond that, I'm not going to comment.
In the back. Yes, sir?
Q Can I ask a question? I have a follow-up on --
(inaudible). I know you have an IRS guy here. Why -- did Stevens
report these gifts as income? If he wasn't disclosing them on his
financial disclosure form, why wouldn't that be a tax violation if he
didn't do that?
MR. FRIEDRICH: Let me answer that question this way. Without --
without reference to this case, my understanding -- as a general
matter, gifts are not reportable -- are not required to be reported
income on tax forms. Income and other things are, but not gifts.
Q (Off mike) -- as gifts. He wasn't disclosing these. So
why would --
MR. FRIEDRICH: On his ethics -- on his -- according to the
indictment, on his ethics forms, yes.
Q Well, what -- did he report these on his tax returns? Like
improvements to a house would be income, wouldn't it?
MR. FRIEDRICH: I'm not going to comment on the senator's tax
Q Can you explain the difference between a quid pro quo and
what's alleged in the indictment?
MR. FRIEDRICH: This indictment charges violations of the False
Statements Statute, which is 18 USC 1001. The Bribery Statute is
found at 18 USC 201. And without -- you know, again, bribery is not
charged in this case. As I mentioned earlier, bribery requires proof
of a specific agreement of a quid pro quo, of this for that. This
indictment does not allege such an agreement.
Q Were there any discussions with Stevens or his lawyers
about a possible plea deal?
MR. FRIEDRICH: I'm not going to discuss -- as a matter of
policy, we wouldn't discuss any such potential discussions. I
wouldn't read into that whether they have occurred or not. I simply
can't comment, can't comment on it.
Q Following that, has he made arrangements to turn himself
in? What's next?
MR. FRIEDRICH: My understanding is, he will be allowed to turn
himself in. He will not be arrested.
Q Have arrangements been made for a court appearance at this
point? Do you know?
MR. FRIEDRICH: That'll be coming shortly.
Q Is he turning himself in in D.C. or in Alaska?
MR. FRIEDRICH: I'll defer to the bureau on that.
MR. TIDWELL: A summons will be issued, and it'll be worked out
what is most convenient for everyone regarding that and regarding the
initial court appearance.
Q Is he in D.C. now?
MR. FRIEDRICH: I do not know if he is in D.C. now.
Q Do you know when and how he was informed by the government
of the grand jury indictment?
MR. FRIEDRICH: Yeah, his attorney received the call earlier
today, and I'll leave it at that.
Any other questions? Yes?
Q Just with the guidelines and the sentencing structure with
someone of the senator's age, if you could talk about how that works,
if there's -- someone becomes, you know, too old to have to serve that
kind of time -- if he's looking at five years on the false statements
MR. FRIEDRICH: Right. I mean, ultimately, we are -- you know,
again, we are at the very beginning phase of the process. To talk
about sentencing isn't something I'm really comfortable with.
I will say generically, you know, ultimately that's something that
would be up to a sentencing court.
STAFF: Last question.
Q Can you say anything about whether the senator cooperated at
all with this investigation?
MR. FRIEDRICH: Again, I have no comment on that one way or
another. I would urge you not to read anything into that one way or
another. I simply can't confirm or deny that either way.
Q Can you --
MR. FRIEDRICH: Yes?
Q Can you elaborate on what sort of cooperation Bill Allen
MR. FRIEDRICH: Bill Allen entered into a plea agreement. That
plea agreement is publicly available to you. It's a public record in
Alaska. You can go and look at it and see for yourself what the terms
of that plea agreement are. He is cooperating with the United States.
STAFF: I'm sorry, I think that's the last question.
Q How long has the investigation been going on?
MR. FRIEDRICH: As I -- (inaudible) -- the global investigation
the federal agencies have been conducting in Alaska since about 2004,
Q Can I ask just one thing. In an election year, I wonder if
you might address just generally whether or not the department takes
special care or follows other particular procedures in order to
influence the outcome of an election given (public corruption ?) ---
(inaudible) -- presidential election year, just speaking generally.
MR. FRIEDRICH: Let me say two things in response to that. One,
when we bring cases as prosecutors, we bring cases based upon our
evaluation of the facts and the law, and we bring cases when they are
ready to be charged, and that's what -- that's what has happened here.
I would refer you as a general matter, if you recall, Judge
Mukasey issued guidance to federal prosecutors earlier this year in
the form of a memo dealing with election-year sensitivities. And
while I'm paraphrasing what the memo says, the gist of it is that
politics should play no part -- partisan politics should play no part
either in what charges we bring or in things like, you know, the
timing of indictment or that type of thing. That policy has been
followed to the letter in this case.
STAFF: Thank you very much, everyone, for coming.