WASHINGTON - The man Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch recently called a "legend" of the Senate now is a felon.
A jury convicted Alaska Republican Sen. Ted Stevens on Monday of seven counts of lying on financial disclosure forms to conceal $250,000 in gifts from an Alaskan oil-services contractor.
Hatch was one of Stevens' character witnesses during the trial in a Washington, D.C., federal court.
During his brief testimony Oct. 14, Hatch called Stevens a hero, and "a very, very solid, fine, decent, honorable man."
After Monday's conviction, Hatch released this statement: "It is very disappointing to see this verdict today. In my dealings with Sen. Ted Stevens, I have always found him to be very honest and straightforward. My prayers are with the senator and his wife and family at this difficult time."
Hatch sits on no major committees with Stevens and the two haven't teamed on any big legislation recently, but they have served in the Senate together three decades.
Stevens has been in office for 40 years and Hatch first met him when he decided to run for the Senate in the mid-1970s.
"I know Ted Stevens about as well as anyone in the United States Senate," Hatch told the jury. "I love the guy."