Saturday, December 17, 2005

Judge Refuses Prosecutor's Request for Gag Order in the Wake of Lay's Speech

Former Enron CEO Ken Lay's speech on Dec. 13 to the Houston Forum laying out his defense and attacking the Enron Task Force provoked an immediate but futile response from those prosecutors.  U.S. District Judge Sim Lake denied the government's request for a gag order in the case, finding that Lay's statement was "just a drop in the bucket" amidst the torrent of Enron publicity over the last 4 years.  Lay's speech may have gotten under the skin of the Enron Task Force, but it may not have resonated with its audience all that well, receiving what the Houston Chronicle described (here) as "polite applause."  With the trial just a month away, look for the rhetoric to increase after the holidays, when the court is more likely to pay attention to public statements that might affect the jury pool.  A Houston Chronicle story (here) discusses the judge's denial of the gag order request.

On a related front, the district court granted former Arthur Andersen accountant Dave Duncan's motion to withdraw his guilty plea to obstruction of justice and dismiss the charge.  The Enron conspiracy defendants have argued that the dismissal is designed to keep Duncan from being able to testify for the defense because the potential of being charged means he will likely assert his Fifth Amendment privilege.  Whether that's the motive, the dismissal is certainly well-timed to take Duncan out of the trial picture. Yet another Houston Chronicle story (here -- this is the best source of Enron news available) discusses the dismissal. (ph)

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