Ex-Enron employees: Give 'em 'hard time'
As the jury begins deliberations, former employees voice wishes for justice; Lay's pastor wants 'the truth.'
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - "I was the one left holding the bag but Lay and Skilling are able to get their day in court," said Debra Johnson, who worked as a coordinator in the Enron International office until the company's 2001 bankruptcy. "I'm the one left with no insurance. I don't have anything. Nothing."
A jury is entering is first full day of deliberations into whether Enron founder Kenneth Lay and former CEO Jeffrey Skilling are guilty of fraud and conspiracy in the collapse of the Houston-based energy company, and former employees are hoping the punishment fits the crime.
"Skilling and Lay don't know what it's like to go get food stamps and welfare while looking for employment full time," said Johnson. "It's awful. Can I send my rent bills to Mr. Lay and Mr. Skilling?"
Johnson, who now volunteers at her grandchild's school while looking for full time work, fears lenient sentencing. "I'd like to see them do hard time. Where they're afraid to go to sleep at night for fear of what might happen."
Johnson, who worked at Enron from 1994 to 2001 and lives in Houston's inner city MacGregor/3rd Ward area, asks, "If I did what they did, where would I be?"
Skilling faces 28 counts of conspiracy and fraud, including charges of insider trading, while jurors will have to weigh six counts of fraud and conspiracy for Lay. If convicted, legal experts believe both Lay and Skilling could face 20 to 30 years in jail.
Johnson is joined by a chorus of ex-Enron employees who are watching the trial closely.
"I do hope they come back with a guilty verdict for both," said Deborah Perrotta. "They're both guilty; Skilling for causing the collapse, Lay for hiding the fact and selling his stocks."
Perrotta, who worked as an administrative assistant in Enron India's Houston-based office and dealt with Lay frequently, is concerned the jury won't see through what she calls his "poor, sweet me" personality. "That's a complete act," she said.
But not everyone is as harsh. Lay and his wife Linda made extensive personal contributions to local organizations, such as the Houston chapter of the American Red Cross, Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Houston, and the Holocaust Museum of Houston -- over $24 million in donations from 1999-2001 alone.
As a result, he has built up goodwill in the community. Lay counts prominent lawyers and clergy as members of his network of support during the trial.
When asked what outcome he hopes for, Dr. Steve Wende, pastor of First Methodist Church, answered simply, "The truth."
Wende, who is Lay's personal pastor, says Lay has been "consistent and insistent" in his prayer requests, which are being prayed for by the church's network of members. According to Wende, Lay has asked for prayers for those "hurt by the fall of Enron," as well as for the truth to come out and finally for the Lays to be guided by God.
As for the trial, Wende says he prays that the jury's decision "be based not on emotion but on facts and the law."
Former administrative assistant Rita Hennessy worked under chief risk officer Rick Buy. Hennessy, who lost all of her retirement savings when the company collapsed, said, "I hope the evidence shows that Lay and Skilling are guilty. I hope the judicial system gives them what they deserve like anyone else." She sums up her attitude: "You did the crime, you pay the time."
Enron jury ends first day of deliberations. Click here.