JUNEAU, Alaska — The FBI released a roughly 3,600-page file on the late U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens Friday, painting a colorful picture of the longtime Alaska senator and intricately detailing media coverage surrounding the 2008 corruption trial that ended his political career.
Stevens was convicted on counts of lying on financial disclosure forms about gifts, including renovations of his Alaska home, which was investigated by the FBI. But a federal judge later tossed the case, finding prosecutors withheld evidence at trial.
The release was expected to shed greater light on the circumstances surrounding Stevens' indictment and trial. But aside from the copious amount of news clippings, there's little mention of the case.
The agency's public records' officer did not immediately return a message from The Associated Press. Efforts to reach Stevens' widow were not immediately successful; a recording for the phone number listed said it had been disconnected.
The release comes six months after Stevens' death in a plane crash in Alaska, the state he represented for 40 years in the U.S. Senate. It includes documents detailing threats made against Stevens during his time in office, complaints against Stevens that seemingly went nowhere and requests from the senator that his office be swept for listening devices amid the Watergate scandal.
The FBI often releases the files of high-profile public figures after they die.
The file also detailed a boozy night on the town with a federal judge in the 1950s, when Stevens was a U.S. attorney, as well as official correspondence – sometimes cordial – between the former senator and the FBI.
The records offer a glimpse into Stevens' legislative style and colorful personality, and signs of an at-times rocky relationship with the FBI dating to his days as a U.S. attorney. It also underscores Stevens' staying power on the political scene spanning from the rough-and-tumble days when Alaska was a territory to his days as one of the nation's most powerful senators.
One of the more descriptive documents stems from the days before statehood, when Stevens was a U.S. attorney in Fairbanks. The FBI was investigating a complaint against federal judge Vernon Forbes, who was accused by an unidentified source of being drunk in public and frequenting "disreputable places of entertainment." Forbes denied being drunk or other misconduct.
Stevens, in an interview with investigators, described a night of drinking and club hopping, including seeing a midnight floor show by vocalist Tommy Roberts at the Flamingo Club. At one point, Stevens said, he invited a deputy U.S. marshal to join them because he didn't want a federal judge in a south Fairbanks night club "without having someone armed along for protection."
In 1954, he got on the FBI's bad side by making a claim that the FBI had refused to investigate a jailbreak. According to a memo written by then-Assistant Director R.T. Harbo to FBI Associate Director Clyde Tolson, a review showed the FBI acted appropriately.
"Mr. Stevens is a young man, short in stature, with a crew cut, quite outspoken, does not appear unfriendly," Harbo wrote, "but the statement made by him when he thought no FBI representative was present reflects at the least a lack of a full appreciation of our position."
A memo from 1971, about 2 1/2 years after Stevens was first elected to the Senate, indicates Stevens arrived late for an FBI National Academy graduation and grumbled – after giving no advance notice he'd attend – about having to wait for "accommodations" until after the president had left.
"Bureau files reflect that Senator Stevens made remarks regarding the FBI which caused us to treat him circumspectly in 1954," the memo states. "Bureau files further indicate he is a 'drinker.'"
The records show he passed on constituent concerns and issues of his own.
A 1973 memo cites a Stevens' request to have his Senate office swept for "possible 'bugs'" ahead of "very sensitive meetings." Handwriting on the memo indicates the sweep was approved. It came at a time when a paranoid President Richard Nixon was secretly recording conversations before he resigned, although the FBI didn't mention any connection.
Complaints about or investigations into numerous threats against Stevens or harassing calls are detailed.
In one case, according to a Sept. 1, 1970, memo, Stevens said the only clues he had to one caller, accused of making harassing calls, was that he said he was from California and that someone with the same or similar name had been thrown out of his office earlier after showing up in "homemade Nazi garb" and appearing to be "mentally unbalanced."