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Judge Moves Enron Trial to Next October

December 8, 2003

HOUSTON (AP) _ Seven former executives of Enron Corp.’s failed broadband unit will get a fall rather than a spring trial, a federal judge ruled Monday.

The executives had been scheduled to go on trial April 5, but attorneys told U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore they wouldn’t be finished reviewing about 20 million pages pertinent to the case until next summer. She rescheduled the trial for Oct. 1.

Per Ramfjord, who represents former Enron Broadband chief executive Joseph Hirko, said the document pool began with about 84 million pages, but attorneys had whittled it down.

He added that extensive trial preparation was necessary because the case involves seven defendants and three distinct alleged conspiracies regarding overstatement of capabilities of the company’s broadband unit, accounting fraud and efforts to hype broadband to analysts in January 2001 to help inflate Enron’s stock price.

``We are working hard to get through this stuff,″ Ramfjord said.

Hirko and former executive Rex Shelby are charged in a 220-count indictment along with former Enron Broadband chief executive Kenneth Rice; former Enron Broadband chief operating officer Kevin Hannon; and former executives Scott Yeager, Kevin Howard and Michael Krautz. All seven have pleaded innocent and are free on bond.

The indictment alleges that Howard and Krautz faked $111 million in earnings in late 2000 and early 2001 in a movie-on-demand deal with Blockbuster Inc. that failed.

The other five face charges of conspiracy, fraud, insider trading and money laundering in an alleged scheme to tout Enron’s broadband network as having capabilities it didn’t have so they could profit from stock sales when the hype helped inflate Enron’s shares.

Gilmore had told prosecutors and defense attorneys she would consider rescheduling the trial, but Ramfjord said the two sides hadn’t been able to agree on a new date. Prosecutors wanted a Sept. 1, 2004, trial while defense attorneys wanted to hold off until January 2005.

Jason Ross, standing in for Edwin Tomko, who represents Shelby, said Tomko had a trial in another case scheduled for September 2004. Gilmore wasn’t sympathetic.

``We won’t sit around and wait for Mr. Tomko,″ she said. ``In a case like this, everyone’s going to have a conflict.″

Gilmore also declined to freeze bank and brokerage accounts in the names of the defendants until lawyers present arguments at a Dec. 22 hearing.

In May, the judge placed a restraining order on those assets. Prosecutors on Monday wanted her to formally freeze those accounts, which the government is seeking to seize, but defense attorneys wanted time to respond to the request.

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