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October 29, 2008

How should (and will) Senator Stevens' political past and future impact his sentencing?

I am having a grand time ruminating about various legal and political dynamics that surround the upcoming sentencing of Senator Ted Stevens following his conviction earlier this week.  And this new Washington Post article, headlined "McCain and Palin Say Stevens Should Resign," got me thinking about the intersection of political realities and legal issues for his sentencing.  Here are some snippets from the article:

Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the [Republican] party's presidential nominee, and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, McCain's running mate, said Stevens must resign because of his conviction for concealing the receipt of more than $250,000 in gifts and renovations to his house in Girdwood, Alaska. "It is clear that Senator Stevens has broken his trust with the people and that he should now step down," McCain said.

Palin left open the possibility that Stevens could stand for reelection Tuesday and then resign. "Alaskans are grateful for his decades of public service, but the time has come for him to step aside. Even if elected on Tuesday, Senator Stevens should step aside to allow a special election to give Alaskans a real choice of who will serve them in Congress," she said.

The Senate's Republican leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell (Ky.), told reporters that Stevens should resign or face expulsion from the Senate. "If he is reelected and the felony charge stands through the appeals process, there is zero chance that a senator with a felony conviction would not be expelled from the Senate," he told the Associated Press while campaigning in Kentucky....

Although the odds of a convicted felon winning reelection seem long, Stevens is considered a heroic figure in Alaska.  Throughout the five-week trial, polls showed Stevens slowly catching up to Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich (D).  The race had narrowed to a near-deadlock by the time Stevens was convicted Monday....  

Stevens has given no hint of willingness to resign. "I remain a candidate for the United States Senate . . . and ask for your vote," he said in a statement Monday....

I cannot help but speculate about how the election results next week should or could impact the future sentencing of Senator Stevens.  If he loses his re-election bid, he can and perhaps will argue at sentencing that he has been punished (and punished enough) by the voters.  If he wins his re-election bid, he can and perhaps will argue at sentencing that the voters do not believe he is guilty and that he ought to get a reduced sentence so he can effectively serve his voters interests in the Senate.

Here is another legal reality not to be missed: Senator McConnell's comment indicating Senator Stevens will be tossed from the Senate includes a notable caveat suggesting he will be expelled only if and when "the felony charge stands through the appeals process."  As informed readers know, that appeals process could easily take years.

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October 29, 2008 at 12:02 PM | Permalink

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For more details about Senator Mitch McConnell's (R.Ky.) comments and intentions about Senator Stevens' convictions, see the front page article in today's (10/29/08)Lexington (Ky.) "Herald-Leader" newspaper, which can be found at "kentucky.com". The headline is: "McConnell Says Stevens Must Go".
Senator McConnell points out that the last Senator forced out was Bob Packwood of Oregon in 1995, for being a seriel sexual harrasser (predator?) among his female staff (and he hadn't even been convicted of a crime!). At that time, Senator McConnell was Chairman of the Ethics Committee, which voted unanimouisly to recommend expulsion of Bob Packwood from the Senate. Senator McConnell personally made the expulsion motion, so there should be little doubt what his position will be on Senator Stevens. Even if he is re-elected, his colleagues will expell him unless he resigns, probably even before his appeal is heard. Another piece of possibly relevant history is that years ago, before returning to Kentucky to begin his elective political career, McConnell worked as a high exsecutive (Asst. Attorney General?) in the Justice Department. He has always been a very "law and order" kind of guy, and his position on Senator Stevens is consistent with that position.

Posted by: Jim Gormley | Oct 29, 2008 1:53:46 PM

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