Chip East  /  Reuters
The fates of Adelphia founder John Rigas, center, pictured earlier this year, and other former executives are now in a jury's hands.
updated 6/28/2004 1:02:14 PM ET 2004-06-28T17:02:14

A federal court jury began deliberations Monday in the trial of four former Adelphia Communications Corp. executives accused of looting the cable television system operator.

Adelphia founder John Rigas, 79, his sons Timothy and Michael, and former assistant treasurer Michael Mulcahey each face 30 years in prison if convicted of the most serious charge, bank fraud. They are accused of hiding $2 million in debt from the company's investors.

During the three-month trial, the government focused on the lavish ways the Rigas family spent the money it allegedly stole from Adelphia. Among the alleged excesses: flying an actress and golf pros on company jets; and spending $6,000 to fly two Christmas trees to New York for John Rigas' daughter, and $25 million to preserve trees outside his home.

John Rigas founded the company in 1952 in tiny Coudersport, Pa., and turned it into one of the nation's largest cable firms. His lawyer, Peter Fleming, noted in closing arguments that his client is 79 years old and has been diagnosed with bladder cancer, and suggested he simply trusted company accountants and did not believe he did wrong.

Defense lawyers also sought to discredit two key prosecution witnesses, former Adelphia executives James Brown and Karen Chrosniak, who both struck deals with prosecutors in exchange for testimony. They accused the two executives of telling the government whatever it wanted to hear.

Adelphia, still operating under bankruptcy protection, has moved its headquarters from Coudersport to Colorado.

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