updated 7/13/2004 8:02:54 AM ET 2004-07-13T12:02:54

The media and political frenzy that followed Enron Corp.'s December 2001 collapse spurred an overzealous investigation aimed at getting "as many scalps as possible," former Enron chairman and chief executive Kenneth Lay said in a television interview Monday.

Lay appeared on the CNN program "Larry King Live" as part of interviews he began giving upon his indictment last week on 11 counts of conspiracy, fraud and other charges. Lay pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial.

"If there hadn't been the media frenzy, the political frenzy around the Enron collapse, odds are this investigation of Enron would have been closed down a long time ago," said Lay, who again denied criminal responsibility and placed most of the blame on former chief financial officer Andrew Fastow.

Fastow has accepted a 10-year prison sentence in a deal with federal prosecutors.

Lay said it was "a little unusual" his indictment came down as the Democratic national convention loomed, but later said he had no reason to believe politics played a role in its timing.

On other issues:

  • Lay blamed California's power woes on the state's deregulation scheme and not on companies like Enron, although he didn't deny individual Enron employees might have taken advantage of the problems.
  • He and Enron's legal team did take seriously grave concerns of then-Enron executive Sherron Watkins in the summer of 2001, Lay said, though the lawyers eventually cast aside Watkins' worries.
  • Based on his unusual public approach after his indictment, Lay acknowledged in the interview he probably will testify in his own defense.

Lay also said his conviction would be unjust.

"I don't fear jail because I'm not guilty," he said.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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