Friday, April 22, 2005

Ken Lay's Bank Fraud Charges Will Be Heard After Larger Conspiracy Trial

U.S. District Judge Sim Lake rejected the government's request to begin the trial of Ken Lay on the severed bank fraud charges within the next two months. Judge Lake accepted the defense argument that an earlier trial -- and conviction -- would have a prejudicial effect on the jury pool because of the intense publicity it would engender.  The two sides also agreed that the charges will be decided by the judge and not a jury, so the court will begin the bank fraud case as soon as the jury retires in the larger conspiracy case that also includes former Enron CEO Jeff Skilling and former Chief Accounting Officer Richard Causey.  This is an interesting arrangement that essentially piggybacks the evidence (to the extent it may be relevant) from the conspiracy trial on to the bank fraud/false statement to a financial institution case, which involves Lay's uses of funds from loans to purchase additional Enron stock.  For Lay, the timing of the separate trial means that he will have greater freedom to decide whether to testify in the conspiracy prosecution without the specter of a prior conviction hanging over his head if the earlier trial had gone against him. A Houston Chronicle story (here) discusses the judge's ruling. (ph)

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