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Ex-Enron chief executive seeks to move trial

Lawyers for former Enron Corp. chief executive Jeffrey Skilling asked a federal court to move his trial out of Houston, arguing in a filing Monday that any jury in Enron's hometown would be biased.
/ Source: Reuters

Lawyers for former Enron Corp. chief executive Jeffrey Skilling asked a federal court to move his trial out of Houston, arguing in a filing Monday that any jury in Enron's hometown would be biased.

"We respectfully submit that Jeffrey Skilling's trial must be transferred to another metropolitan venue, such as Phoenix, Denver, or Atlanta," Daniel Petrocelli, Skilling's lead lawyer in the case, said in court papers.

Skilling faces trial on dozens of counts of fraud, insider trading and conspiracy connected to the energy company, which collapsed into bankruptcy in December 2001.

He will stand trial with former Chairman Ken Lay and former Chief Accounting Officer Richard Causey, although a trial date has not yet been set.

Causey was also expected to seek a change of venue for the trial. Lawyers for Lay have previously said they would prefer a trial in front of a judge without a jury.

The collapse of Enron, once the nation's seventh-largest company, cost thousands of Houstonians their jobs or pensions, hurt real estate prices and damaged local charities, according to Skilling's filing.

Houston residents "have a personal, emotional, and economic stake in this case resulting from Enron's dramatic rise and fall," the filing said.

According to the filing, Skilling and his co-defendants have been compared to Satan, Al Qaeda, Adolph Hitler and O.J. Simpson by reports in the local media, including the city's sole newspaper The Houston Chronicle.

Last week, a Houston jury found one former Enron mid-level executive and four former Merrill Lynch bankers guilty of conspiracy and fraud in the first criminal case connected the bankruptcy energy company.

But that jury acquitted a former Enron accountant on the charges stemming for the fraudulent sale of three power producing barges in Nigeria from Enron to Merrill Lynch in 1999.