Three days, no verdict in Enron case
Jury resumes deliberations in Lay-Skilling trial on Tuesday; Lay testifies in separate bank fraud trial.
By Shaheen Pasha and Jessica Seid, staff writers

HOUSTON ( - Enron founder Kenneth Lay and former chief executive Jeffrey Skilling faced another day of waiting Monday as jurors in the biggest corporate trial in memory continued their third day of deliberations.

A jury of eight women and four men left the federal courthouse around 5:20 p.m. ET through a back entrance. The jury made only one request of the court Monday - asking for external speakers for their laptops, presumably to listen to the audio tapes of analyst calls.

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Otherwise, the jurors have kept mum since they began deliberating last Wednesday afternoon, providing no indication of their progress as they mull over stacks of evidence and pore through the testimony of over 50 witnesses.

The jury is expected to pick up deliberations Tuesday morning at 9 a.m. ET.

After the jury recessed for the day, Lay, who is facing a second trial for bank fraud, took the stand in his own defense.

Government prosecutors accused Lay of signing agreements with three banks that he would not use $75 million in personal bank loans to buy stock on margin, but proceeded to do just that - a violation of an obscure banking law known as Regulation U. The government indicted him on four counts of bank fraud, each carrying 30 years in prison if he's convicted.

The defense, however, characterized this last line of charges as part of a witch hunt by the government aimed at trying to ensure a conviction for Lay if the jury acquits him of the original charges of conspiracy and fraud.

Lay testifies

On the stand, Lay acknowledged that he hadn't fully complied with the loan documents but said that he wasn't aware at the time that he had done anything wrong.

"Was it ever your intention to defraud any of those banks?" asked defense attorney Ken Carroll. "No, it was not," Lay replied.

The defense contends that since Lay paid back the loans in entirety and if there was no intent to defraud the banks, Lay can't be found guilty.

Still, the final determination of that will fall to Judge Sim Lake, rather than a jury.

Lay is expected to continue his testimony Tuesday and both sides will issue closing arguments by the afternoon. Judge Lake, however, will hold off issuing a ruling until the jury renders its verdict in the first trial against Lay and Skilling.

The jury began deliberating following a forceful closing argument by lead government prosecutor Sean Berkowitz. Berkowitz asked jurors to dismiss the defendants' assertions that Enron was in solid condition at the end of 2001 and the company's aggressive accounting policies were simply par for the course of doing business in Corporate America.

Berkowitz told the jury if Enron was the example of how Corporate America ran its business, "I would suggest we all take our money out of the stock market."

Lots to consider

But after 16 weeks and 56 days of testimony and documents, jurors will have a large range of factors to consider, including the testimony of both defendants and impassioned closing arguments by defense attorneys for both Skilling and Lay.

At the heart of the defense is the notion that not only did Skilling and Lay not commit any crimes but that there were no crimes at Enron other than the handful of misdeeds committed by the company's former financial chief Andrew Fastow.

The defense has sought to portray Fastow as the villain of the play, with Lay testifying that the worst decision he ever made at Enron was putting Fastow into the role of CFO, allowing him the access to steal millions of dollars from the company and attract a barrage of negative press.

Both Lay and Skilling have testified that it wasn't fraud at Enron that sent the company - once the seventh largest in the country - spiraling into bankruptcy in December 2001. The two men blamed a crisis of confidence in the stock market as Fastow's questionable activities drew media attention which allowed short sellers to take advantage of the situation and make a quick buck off Enron's misfortunes.

Prosecutors have painted a far different picture of Enron's collapse.

"The truth was coming out and Enron couldn't survive the truth," Berkowitz told jurors during closing arguments.

Skilling faces 28 counts of conspiracy, fraud and insider trading. Lay faces six counts of conspiracy and fraud, in addition to the separate four charges of bank fraud. Experts say the two men face about 20 to 30 years in prison if convicted.

Enron was the largest bankruptcy in corporate history, costing thousands of employees and investors billions of dollars, and set about the creation of new accounting regulation to prevent such a collapse from happening in the future.


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