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Defiant Sen. Stevens vows to appeal convictions

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[October 30, 2008]  ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) -- A defiant Sen. Ted Stevens returned to his home state Wednesday a convicted felon, telling cheering supporters at an airport that bears his name that he's innocent and vowing he will be vindicated.

It was the 84-year-old lawmaker's first stop in Alaska since a federal court jury in Washington convicted him Monday of seven counts of lying on Senate disclosure forms to conceal hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts from a wealthy businessman. He will be sentenced early next year.

Stevens, the longest serving Republican in Senate history, has brushed aside calls from GOP leaders to resign. He is seeking his seventh full term in next Tuesday's election, facing Democrat Mark Begich.

"I'm running for re-election because I love this land and its people," he told a standing-room only crowd at a hangar at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.

Stevens was greeted by hundreds of cheering supporters who chanted, "We need Ted!" and "We love you, Ted!"

He told them: "I will appeal Monday's verdict, and we will win that appeal."

Stevens blamed his legal problems on his former friend Bill Allen, the founder and former chairman of VECO Corp., an oil field services company. Allen was the government's star witness.


"I naively trusted someone who I thought was a trusted friend, who was neither honest nor a friend," Stevens said.

Even though a convicted felon, Stevens remains popular in home state, where he was named "Alaskan of the Century."

The feisty rhetoric resonated with supporter Phil Isley, 53, an Anchorage airplane mechanic.

Isley said he appreciates Stevens for the money and jobs that he has brought to this state, and what occurred in the Washington courtroom should be a lesson for every American.

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"If you take one of the most powerful men in America and he can't get a fair trial, how can the rest of us expect a fair trial?"

Earlier Wednesday, Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, joined a growing list of Republicans urging Stevens to step down.

"Sen. Stevens should do the right thing and resign," he told MSNBC.

Among other Republicans calling for Stevens' resignation are GOP presidential candidate John McCain and his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

[Associated Press; By MARY PEMBERTON]

Associated Press writer Matthew Daly contributed to this report from Washington.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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