Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Opening Salvos in Scrushy Trial

The government and defense made their opening arguments in the trial of former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy.  A report from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Jan. 25) provides the following summary of the arguments by U.S. Attorney Alice Martin and Jim Parkman:

"They pumped up the profits, and he hid it from the public," said Martin. She described Scrushy as "a very hands-on leader" who personally selected top aides and tried to sway their statements to federal agents once an investigation began."The evidence will show that Richard Scrushy as chief executive officer gave phony numbers to the public," Martin said.

The defense conceded that a fraud occurred, but Scrushy lawyer Jim Parkman blamed it on a group of overly ambitious, tightly knit executives who called themselves "the family" — a group, he said, that hid the misstatements from Scrushy."This was no ordinary family. This was a family that operated as a unit on their own," said Parkman.

In a deep, folksy drawl that contrasted with Martin's more businesslike approach, Parkman portrayed the Alabama-born Scrushy as an everyman CEO from humble beginnings who did his best yet failed to detect fraud that also eluded graduates of top Ivy League schools."How could it get by Richard Scrushy? You know how? This group controlled the numbers," Parkman said. In an early attack on a key government witness, Parkman described former chief financial officer Williams Owens as "the godfather" of the conspirators, casting doubt on the man who prosecutors say helped cement their case by secretly recording discussions with Scrushy.

An earlier post (here) discussed Parkman's "country lawyer" approach to the trial -- no doubt against the array of city-slickers. This is the rare prosecution in which the United States Attorney will try the government's case, and Martin is putting the reputation of her office on the line in the prosecution.  (ph)


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