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Alaska Senator Stevens Found Guilty Of Ethics Breach

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U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, has been found guilty of seven counts of making false statements on financial disclosure documents.

The federal jury in Washington found Monday that Stevens intentionally and knowingly sought to conceal more than $250,000 in gifts, including home renovations.

Stevens was charged with "knowingly and willfully" scheming to collect thousands of dollars in gifts from 1999 to 2007 while not reporting those gifts on his senate disclosure forms, including a new first floor, garage, deck plumbing and wiring to his Girdwood, Alaska, home, according to the indictment.

He was also accused of concealing the gifts, from the oil company VECO and its CEO Bill Allen, and using his Senate office to do favors for VECO, the indictment continues.

Stevens had denied the charges, proclaiming his innocence and releasing a statement after his July indictment that he was "saddened."

"I have never knowingly submitted a false disclosure form required by law as a U.S. Senator," Stevens said in the statement. "I am innocent of these charges and intend to prove that."

Representatives for Stevens could not be reached for comment after the verdict.

The conviction comes the same day as a replacement juror was seated to fill in for another juror who left for California on a personal emergency late last week and has since not contacted the court, according to reports.

That forced the jury to restart deliberations Monday and the swift verdict came as a surprise to some after three days of reportedly contentious deliberations last week. Sentencing in the case was set for late January.

The 84-year-old Stevens, the longest-serving Republican in the Senate, is enmeshed in a tight race for reelection against the Democratic mayor of Anchorage Mark Begich who has repeatedly hammered Stevens for his connections to VECO, which was at the center of the corruption trial.

Begich's campaign did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

Stevens, a member of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, is famous for the federal funds and projects he has steered to his native state.

The verdict will not necessarily result in the end of Stevens' term in the Senate. He can continue to campaign and even serve, if reelected, until the Senate formally takes action against him.

Stevens' Senate colleagues were restrained in their reaction to the news of his conviction. Several senators did not respond to requests for comment and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., issued only a brief statement.

"This verdict is a personal tragedy for our colleague Ted Stevens, but it is an important reminder that no man is above the law," Reid said. "Senator Stevens must now respect the outcome of the judicial process and the dignity of the United States Senate."

Taxpayer watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste, a long-time critic of Stevens' appropriations, was less restrained, swiftly hailing Stevens' conviction.

"The congressional spending process has become rife with examples of politicians skirting the spending rules, skirting the ethics rules and stepping over the line," said CAGW President Tom Schatz. "Sen. Stevens abused his position of power as the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Committee for years to bilk the taxpayers in order to aggrandize himself and his cronies. He did so with impunity and arrogance, until today."

According to Alaska news reports, the federal corruption investigation in Alaska has resulted in at least seven other convictions, including three lawmakers, former Gov. Frank Murkowski's chief of staff, a lobbyist, and two VECO executives. Alaska Rep. Don Young, a Republican, is also under investigations for his ties to VECO.

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