Fired HealthSouth Corp. chief Richard Scrushy, acquitted last year in a $2.7 billion fraud, expressed sympathy for Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling after their conviction Thursday in an even bigger scam — the Enron Corp. collapse.
"I hate it for them," Scrushy said. "I don't have enough information to know why it happened."
Scrushy commented as he entered the federal courthouse in Montgomery, where he is currently on trial with former Gov. Don Siegelman and two others in a political bribery case unrelated to the HealthSouth accounting fraud.
The defense that worked perfectly for Scrushy — staying off the witness stand and blaming anything that happened on subordinates — didn't help Lay and Skilling, former Enron chiefs who were convicted of conspiracy and fraud counts.
Scrushy, who attended the Enron trial one day in March, said he was concerned for Lay and Skilling when he saw that they testified.
"I didn't take the stand because I knew they had not put on evidence proving I did anything wrong," Scrushy said. "When they testified I thought maybe there was something there they were worried about."
U.S. Attorney Alice Martin, who led the fraud prosecution of Scrushy, said attorneys for Lay and Skilling couldn't destroy the credibility of former Enron finance chief Andrew Fastow, who testified against the pair.
"In order for prosecutors to take the jury inside a massive 'executive suite' conspiracy, other guilty top executives like Fastow have to testify," said Martin.
"The defense tactic of trying to destroy Fastow's credibility, and point the guilty finger solely at him, obviously didn't work with this jury," she said.
Martin declined comment on what might have made the difference between Houston and Birmingham, where Scrushy jurors rejected the testimony of five former HealthSouth CFOs who said Scrushy directed the fraud to keep stock prices artificially high.
The five former HealthSouth finance chiefs all pleaded guilty to federal charges, as did 10 other former HealthSouth executives.