Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Cross-Examining Scott Sullivan About Marital Infidelity in Ebbers Trial

According to an AP story (Jan. 18), U.S. District Judge Barbara Jones, who is presiding over the Bernie Ebbers trial, rejected a government motion to prohibit Ebbers' counsel from cross-examining former WorldCom CFO about instances of marital infidelity.  The story reports: "U.S. District Judge Barbara Jones said the line of questioning was permissible because it spoke to 'Mr. Sullivan's character for truthfulness.' Prosecutors were trying to block the defense from raising the fidelity issue." Sullivan is the key government witness because of his extensive interactions with Ebbers and the lack of a paper trail linking Ebbers to the accounting misconduct at the company. The judge also granted a defense motion to prohibit the government from questioning Sullivan about his conversation with Ebbers when they watched testimony at a Congressional hearing on the collapse of Enron, and questioning other executives about Enron-related conversations.  The judge found that the subject would be unfairly prejudicial.

The judge rejected a defense request that the government be required to grant immunity to two witnesses, including WorldCom's former chief operating officer, who will assert their Fifth Amendment privilege and refuse to testify. The judge found that the government had not abused its discretion in refusing to grant immunity, and the court is not authorized to grant immunity on its own authority. The jury selection process began Jan. 18, and opening arguments are scheduled for Jan. 25. (ph)

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