The trial date for one of five former natural gas traders who were indicted in late November on charges of reporting false trades has been pushed back to August from February, according to a published report. The trials of four other ex-traders also may be rescheduled.

Lawyers for Jerry A. Futch Jr., a former Reliant Energy trader, claim that the case is complex and that the volume of data being provided through discovery will take months to sift through in preparation for a trial, The Houston Chronicle reported. U.S. District Judge David Hittner granted the request, resetting the trial for Aug. 2, it said.

Futch, 41, is charged with four counts of reporting false trades (see Daily GPI, Nov. 30). He is accused of sending a total of four e-mails to Inside FERC: two on Nov. 29, 2000, and one each on Dec. 27, 2000 and Jan. 2, 2001. Futch allegedly knew the information was inaccurate because the reported trades were not fixed-price physical natural gas trades.

Trials for former El Paso traders James Phillips, Donald Burwell and Greg Singleton and former Dynegy trader Michelle Valencia are set to begin in January, but their attorneys are seeking later dates. The judges in the cases have not yet ruled on their requests. All four traders are charged with conspiracy, false reporting and wire fraud related to the transmission of allegedly false trade reports to industry newsletters that publish price indexes.

Each count of reporting false market information affecting or tending to affect the price of natural gas carries a maximum punishment of five years in prison and a fine of $500,000. Each count of conspiracy and wire fraud carries a maximum punishment of five years in prison and a penalty of $250,000.

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