Bernard Ebbers and wife
Adam Rountree  /  AP Photo
Former WorldCom Bernard Ebbers and his wife, Kristie, arrive at federal court in Manhattan Friday. Ebbers is accused of directing an $11 billion accounting fraud.
updated 3/4/2005 5:30:19 PM ET 2005-03-04T22:30:19

A jury began deliberations but did not reach a verdict Friday in the trial of former WorldCom chief Bernard Ebbers, accused of orchestrating the $11 billion accounting scheme that bankrupted the company.

The panel of seven women and five men spent about five hours discussing the case before adjourning for the week. They were to resume deliberations Monday morning.

Just before going home, the jury sent a note asking to review more than three dozen exhibits and chunks of testimony from the trial, including some key testimony from star prosecution witness Scott Sullivan.

Sullivan, who was chief financial officer under Ebbers, testified that Ebbers pressured him into falsifying financial records at WorldCom from 2000 to 2002.

Jurors also asked to review the transcript of a 2001 voice mail in which Sullivan warns Ebbers that WorldCom’s numbers have “accounting fluff” in them. The defense has argued the voice mail was referring to ways WorldCom counted revenue and represented nothing illegal.

U.S. District Judge Barbara Jones gave jurors the case earlier Friday along with 90 minutes of instructions on the law, urging them to weigh the evidence with clear thinking and without sympathy.

“You, the members of the jury, are the sole and exclusive judges of the facts,” she told them.

The jury must decide whether Ebbers, 63, orchestrated the fraud that drove WorldCom into the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history in 2002. He is charged with fraud, conspiracy, and lying to the Securities and Exchange Commission — crimes that carry up to 85 years in prison.

On Thursday, the jury heard a four-hour closing argument from defense lawyer Reid Weingarten, who pinned the fraud entirely on Scott Sullivan, who was finance chief under Ebbers and testified against him at trial.

“He was more rehearsed on his direct testimony than the actor who plays Hamlet on Broadway,” Weingarten said. “It’s hard to come up with a script where a witness has a greater motive to lie.”

Sullivan, 43, hopes to win a lighter prison sentence by helping the government. He has admitted carrying out the fraud, but claims Ebbers pressured him to do it in order to keep WorldCom stock high.

Prosecutor David Anders spoke to jurors last, telling the jury there was “proof beyond a reasonable doubt that Bernard Ebbers was a member of this conspiracy to commit securities fraud.

“This is a serious case,” he said. “And it’s an important case. But it’s not a close case.”

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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