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Life through a dirty glass

EDITOR'S NOTE: This post has been updated.

By Carl Sears, NBC News Washington producer

Either you believe the government that Sen. Ted Stevens is "dirty" - as in corrupt - or you believe the defense attorney Brendan Sullivan's dim view of the government's case: "If you look at life through a dirty glass, and the dirty glass doesn't get washed for 5-10 years, then the whole world looks dirty."  Either way, there is a lot of mud being slung in the closing arguments of Sen. Stevens trial.

Prosecutor Joseph Bottini argued that "the price is always right when it's free." Sen. Stevens is charged with knowingly and willfully receiving thousands of dollars in gifts and renovations on his Alaska home that he failed to report on Senate disclosure forms from 1999-2006. Much of the work was performed by Stevens' friend Bill Allen, a key government witness whose oil service company employees worked hundreds of hours on the Stevens "chalet" remodeling.

Prosecutor Bottini methodically took the jury through a series of e-mails and played snatches of secretly recorded conversations in an effort to clearly show that Stevens knew that he was receiving free work and gifts on his Alaska home. Bottini frequently punctuated his arguments with harsh words such as: "this is nonsense," "this is absurd," "his story is ridiculous." "Where is this mystery bill?" and "This is a classic cover-up."

Chief defense counsel Brendan Sullivan blasted the government's case: "I could win the football game on Monday morning - the government is being a Monday morning quarterback six, seven, eight years out."  The government has not proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt, Sullivan said. "You've got an innocent man on your hands. You've got to understand what the evidence means - it doesn't mean what you heard."

In reviewing key e-mails and invoices, Sullivan has shown the Stevenses paid $162,000 to other contractors for renovation work on their Alaska home: "the evidence is overwhelming that what they paid is fair ... They paid their debt and they didn't think they were getting anything for free."

Sullivan attacked the credibility of key government witness Bill Allen, whose Veco workers performed much of the renovation, saying "Ted Stevens had a friend that he thought was one of the more reputable people in Alaska - he didn't know he was the bum he turned out to be - (Allen) pled guilty to bribing people, campaign violations, none of which involve Ted Stevens."

Sullivan said "they ask you to brand (Stevens) a criminal, despite the evidence is undisputable that he is an honest, truthful man." 

In the government's final rebuttal, prosecutor Brenda Morris said Stevens blames anybody else, "just so it doesn't stick to him." Morris asked the jury to find Stevens guilty because "he gambled and he lost."  Jury deliberations will begin on Wednesday.

More NBC investigative reporting can be found at www.deepbackground.msnbc.com.