Former Enron Corp. Chairman Ken Lay, claiming his indictment two weeks before the Democratic National Convention was politically motivated, Wednesday challenged the Justice Department to respond to his call for a speedy trial by scheduling it before the November election. The challenge is contained in an op-ed piece written by Lay entitled “The Politics of My Trial” and published in The Washington Post midway through the Republican National Convention.
“Do you have a real case, based on the law and not on politics? Subject to the judge’s schedule, meet me in court before November, and agree to a stand-alone trial, with or without a jury — your option. If you agree to a non-jury trial, the trial can begin and end before the election,” Lay said, addressing Acting Attorney General James Comey and Enron Task Force prosecutor Andrew Weissmann in the editorial.
The founder of the failed mega-corporation said the indictment was a “maneuver” that “meant I had been accused and thus ‘taken off the table’ as a political issue for this year’s election, the assumption being that I could not possibly get an open, public trial before November.”
Lay characterized comments made by Justice Department, Securities and Exchange Commission and Internal Revenue Service officials at the news conference in Washington July 8 when his indictment was announced as pre-judging the case. He quotes IRS Commissioner Mark W. Everson as saying “The corporate culture of Enron guided by Mr. Lay is now synonymous with corporate fraud and greed at its worst. And Enron’s crooked E logo depicts the corporate management team at Enron — crooked.”
“Are these signs of a dispassionate prosecution of crime?”, Lay asked. “To me they look more like part of a political campaign.”
Lay also noted that at the news conference what had been named the Enron Task Force was reborn at the press conference as “The President’s Corporate Fraud Task Force.”
The indictment of Lay, the 30th Enron official to face charges in connection with its operation and failure, came in July following a two-year investigation by the Enron Task Force. Lay pleaded innocent to 11 criminal charges: one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and wire fraud; two counts of wire fraud for making false and misleading statements in employee meetings; four counts of securities fraud; one count of bank fraud; and three counts of making false statements to banks. In total the charges carry the possibility of 175 years in prison if he is convicted. He also was charged by the SEC (see Daily GPI, July 9).
Lay’s lawyers have asked that he be tried separately and ahead of former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling and former Chief Accounting Officer Richard Causey, who each face nearly 40 criminal charges, and that the trial begin by mid-September. The Houston judge presiding over the case said he will likely decide by early October whether the three will be tried together or separately, but refused to hear Lay’s request for an early trial (see Daily GPI, Aug. 13).
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