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Star witness on stand in Rigas trial

/ Source: The Associated Press

A former executive "lied again and again" about the finances of Adelphia Communications Corp., the government's star witness in the case against Adelphia founder John Rigas and his sons testified Thursday.

Former vice president of finance James Brown, the prosecution's star witness in the trial of four other former Adelphia executives, took the stand for the first time Thursday and launched into a seemingly rehearsed speech, saying he "lied on numerous occasions."

"I lied about Adelphia's earnings, I lied about its operating statistics," said Brown, who has pleaded guilty in the case. "I lied in the company's filings."

Some of the lies were "blatant," he said. "A lot of them were half truths. Some were just withholding material information."

The judge cut Brown off after a defense lawyer objected to the lengthy response to the prosecutor's question on why he was arrested in 2002.

Adelphia founder John Rigas, his sons Timothy and Michael, are on trial in U.S. District Court in Manhattan along with Michael Mulcahey, another former executive, on charges of conspiracy, bank fraud, wire fraud and securities fraud. They are accused of a scheming to loot the company and mislead investors and the public about its finances and operations.

Brown joined the cable company in 1984, just out of college, and worked there until he resigned amid an accounting scandal in May 2002. Throughout that time, he reported to former chief financial officer Timothy Rigas, whom he described as a hands-on manager.

"He was pretty involved in the details," said Brown. "He wanted to know everything that was going on with what we were doing."

Brown testified he couldn't recall ever having taken a significant action regarding Adelphia without consulting Timothy Rigas.

His testimony could hurt efforts by defense lawyers to portray Timothy Rigas as too busy to be aware of the alleged wrongdoing at Adelphia.

When asked about his personal relationship with Timothy Rigas, Brown began crying.

"Tim was among my closest friends, at times my best friend," he said. "Outside of family probably as close as anybody I've ever been to."

He broke down when prosecutors displayed a picture of Brown at his wedding with Timothy Rigas, who was his best man. Timothy Rigas showed no visible emotion.

John Rigas, formerly chairman and chief executive, was less involved than Timothy Rigas, but still "kept a good hand in everything that was going on," Brown said. Brown said he frequently dined and socialized with John Rigas and traveled with him and his family on business.