updated 4/13/2004 4:07:49 PM ET 2004-04-13T20:07:49

Jury selection began Tuesday in the retrial of Frank Quattrone, the highly successful Silicon Valley investment banker accused of obstructing a federal stock probe in 2000.

U.S. District Judge Richard Owen questioned individual jurors out of a pool of more than 200 who crowded into a lower Manhattan courtroom.

Quattrone, who made a fortune taking Internet companies public during the dot-com stock craze of the late 1990s, was first tried last year. The trial lasted four weeks before ending in a mistrial in October. A majority of jurors had leaned toward conviction.

The judge said he expects the trial to last about three weeks, but he cautioned jurors that “in this room, nothing is written in stone.”

Federal prosecutors enter the retrial fresh off a victory in their highest-profile white-collar case — the conviction of Martha Stewart in March on charges of obstruction, conspiracy and lying to investigators.

In the Quattrone case, they must show the banker acted with criminal intent on Dec. 5, 2000, when he endorsed a colleague’s e-mail that urged employees to “catch up on file cleaning” by destroying some files.

Quattrone contends he was simply following the policy of his bank, Credit Suisse First Boston, which required routine destruction of some outdated documents.

As the retrial neared, it remained unclear whether Quattrone would take the witness stand again in his own defense.

Some jurors said after the first trial that Quattrone hurt his own case by appearing combative on the stand and appearing to contradict his lawyer’s assertion that he had no involvement in how CSFB doled out stock shares.

Legal experts said they did not expect Quattrone lawyer John W. Keker to change his trial strategy simply because some jurors had said Quattrone had damaged himself on the stand.

Owen is presiding over the second trial despite calls from defense lawyers that he remove himself for having shown what they called pro-government bias.

Owen has denied Quattrone’s request to move the trial to California, closer to his home. Last week, the judge denied a defense request to keep the jury anonymous. Lawyers had cited the recent trial of two ex-Tyco International executives, which ended in a mistrial after some newspapers published a juror’s name.

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