A witness who testified against Ted Stevens has said in a letter to the judge that he falsely denied on the stand that he had an immunity deal with prosecutors in exchange for his testimony.
The witness, David Anderson, a welder who worked on the Alaska senator's home, wrote in the letter that his testimony that there was no immunity agreement "is simply not true". And he wrote that prosecutors "instructed me on how to sugar coat [the immunity deal] and get it swept under the rug during the trial."
The letter was filed today by defense lawyers.
Stevens was convicted on seven counts of having lied on his Senate disclosure forms about gifts he received from an oil-services contractor. Earlier this month, he lost his bid for re-election to the Senate.
Late Update: Anderson's letter contains more eyebrow-raising allegations than we'd first noted. He writes: "There was a contract to have me murdered issued by Bill and Mark Allen."
According to a report on the blog AlaskaDispatch, Anderson is Bill Allen's nephew, and Mark Allen is Bill Allen's son. Anderson clashed with Mark Allen, and therefore Bill Allen, over a woman. To protect his family, both from Bill Allen and from unspecified future charges, Anderson testified against Stevens, he told AlaskaDispatch's Tony Hopfinger, who has written for Bloomberg News and Newsweek.
So obviously, this news is being driven by a lot of different agendas, which we don't yet know enough to evaluate. And the specific details of the Anderson-Allen dispute aren't necessarily relevant. But the key point is that if there's compelling evidence that Anderson gave false testimony, or that prosecutors encouraged him to testify falsely or in a misleading manner, Stevens' conviction could potentially be put in doubt.
We'll keep you posted as things become clearer...
Late Late Update: DOJ has responded to Anderson's claims. AP reports:
The Justice Department responded quickly, saying the government never made any agreement of immunity for Anderson or any of his family or friends. "Mr. Anderson's statement in his November 2008 letter is not true, and the court is aware that it is not true," government lawyers said.
[T]he Justice Department said Anderson told two FBI agents in an August 13 meeting that he knew there was no immunity agreement and that the March affidavit was false.
The government agreed not to make him testify against family members, but "Anderson knew that there had been no agreement relative to immunity or promises of immunity by the government as to anyone," the Justice Department said.