Trial date setfor Lay, Skilling

Kenneth Lay, Enron's former chairman, faces only a handful of charges for conspiracy and fraud. Michael Stravato / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

The fraud and conspiracy trial of Enron Corp. founder Kenneth Lay and former CEO Jeffrey Skilling has been set for Jan. 17, 2006, a federal judge said Thursday.

U.S. District Judge Sim Lake yielded to defense requests for more time to prepare their case and sought to avoid conflicts over the year-end holidays.

The trial is expected to be the premiere case to emerge from the Justice Department’s investigation of a rash of corporate scandals that began with its swift fall into bankruptcy after an accounting scandal unwound in December 2001.

Enron’s former top two executives and their co-defendant, former chief accounting officer Richard Causey, wanted a Dec. 1 trial, while prosecutors wanted to begin in September.

Skilling and Causey face more than 30 counts of fraud, conspiracy, insider trading and other charges, accused of being in on or knowing about various schemes to manufacture profits and hide debt in the years leading to Enron’s crash. The case against Lay is narrower, alleging in seven counts of fraud and conspiracy that he took control of the ruse when Skilling abruptly resigned less than four months before Enron crumbled.

All three have pleaded not guilty.

Lay is also charged in a separate case with bank fraud and three counts of lying to banks about his intention to use loans to buy Enron stock on margin. Mike Ramsey, Lay’s lead lawyer, said his team intends for that case to stay on the back burner until the conspiracy case concludes.

“My notion is to devote our time and energy to the main case,” Ramsey said. The trial of former Enron Corp. Chairman Ken Lay and former Chief Executive Officer Jeff Skilling for their role in the downfall of the energy giant will start on Jan. 17, 2006, a U.S. judge said Thursday.

Lay and Skilling will be tried in federal court along with former chief accounting officer Richard Causey.

Skilling and Causey each face dozens of charges of conspiracy, insider trading, fraud for lying on Enron financial statements, while Lay is facing only a handful of charges for conspiracy and fraud.