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Lay's defense lawyer expected to recover

/ Source: The Associated Press

Enron Corp. founder Kenneth Lay's lead lawyer had a stent implanted in his carotid artery to relieve blockage Friday and was expected to make a full recovery, his doctor said in a statement.

Whether Michael Ramsey, 66, will be able to return to Lay's federal fraud and conspiracy trial before it concludes was unclear, but Lay and the rest of his legal team aim to forge ahead with no interruptions.

Ramsey was absent from the trial this week to undergo medical tests leading up to the stent implantation on Friday. He had one placed in a coronary artery on March 24, but doctors found the carotid artery blockage this week.

"Mr. Ramsey is doing very well," Dr. James Muntz, an internist and Ramsey's admitting physician at The Methodist Hospital in Houston.

Muntz said Ramsey underwent a two-hour procedure to implant the stent, restore blood flow to the brain and prevent a possible stroke.

The procedure required a small incision in Ramsey's leg to snake a catheter to the artery, through which the stent was moved to be implanted in the blocked area and hold it open. The catheter was then removed. Over the next month, the inner lining of the artery will grow over the stent surface, and the device "will become a permanent part of the artery wall," Muntz said.

Lay and the rest of his legal team remained hopeful that Ramsey could return to duty. The prosecution rested its case last week, and the defense presented 10 witnesses so far in its case this week. Lay's co-defendant, former Enron Chief Executive Jeffrey Skilling, is expected to begin lengthy testimony on Monday in the 11th week of the case.

Lay aims to testify as well, but likely won't take the stand until mid-April or later.

"I am delighted to hear that Mike's surgery was a success. We knew he was in capable hands at Methodist, and are pleased that all went smoothly," Lay said Friday in a statement.

Ramsey had been slated to undergo more invasive surgery, but his doctors conducted more tests and gave him the option of having another stent implanted.

Since the high-profile case began with jury selection on Jan. 30, Ramsey had often appeared pale and run down. At times he spoke and moved more slowly than usual, even when cross-examining witnesses.

But Ramsey has shared those duties with Lay's other attorneys. He said earlier this week that a "deep bench" of able lawyers allowed the team to carry on without him for as long as he needs to recover.

Lay and Skilling are accused of repeatedly lying to investors about Enron's financial health when they allegedly knew the company hid weak ventures and manufactured earnings with accounting tricks. The defendants counter that no fraud occurred at Enron other than that committed by a few executives who skimmed money from secret side deals, and that bad publicity and lost market confidence drove the company to seek bankruptcy protection in December 2001.

Skilling faces 28 counts of fraud, conspiracy, insider trading and lying to auditors while Lay faces six counts of fraud and conspiracy.