WASHINGTON - It would have been "business suicide" to cross Bill Allen, testified the carpenter who renovated Sen. Ted Stevens' home in Alaska and who said he was bullied into not sending the senator a final bill of $13,393.
Allen told him he should "eat" the final bill from the home renovations, testified Augie Paone, who took the stand Wednesday as a defense witness in the senator's corruption trial.
Allen, the chief executive of Veco Corp., an oil field services company that was one of Alaska's largest private employers before it was sold last year, was overseeing renovations at Stevens' home in Girdwood, Alaska, in 2000 and 2001.
Those renovations and other gifts are at the heart of the case against Stevens, whose corruption trial is in its fourth week. The 84-year-old Alaska Republican was charged with seven felony counts of making false statements on Senate financial-disclosure forms.
Stevens' wife, Catherine, is poised to testify today, and the senator also might take the stand. During the lunch break Wednesday, Stevens got onto the witness stand to determine whether he could hear and see the lawyers. He also tested the microphones.
Stevens, who's listed as the final defense witness, doesn't have to take the stand. The judge has reminded him repeatedly that jurors aren't supposed to hold it against him if he doesn't.
Paone testified that he objected to "eating" the bill for work at Stevens' home and said so in a meeting with Allen, who told the carpenter he should "look at it as a political contribution," Paone said.
"At first I was shocked," Paone said. "I also tried to hold on to my composure. I knew I was in a bind, because I knew he had me in a spot where I really couldn't do anything."
Paone said he "thought about sending it over to the senator, but I knew it would be business suicide. I knew that I was between a rock and a hard place. I thought it was wiser -- or better business sense on my side -- to just leave it alone."
A few months later, Allen asked Paone's Christensen Builders to do work on his own house. Allen padded the cost of his own renovations to compensate for the $13,393 that Paone lost on the Stevens remodel, the carpenter testified.
Stevens' legal team used Paone to chip away at Allen's credibility. Allen was the star witness for the prosecution.