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Jury Seeks Guidance In Ebbers's Trial

Judge Explains Part of Indictment

By Brooke A. Masters
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 10, 2005; Page E02

NEW YORK, March 9 -- The federal jury considering fraud charges against former WorldCom Inc. chief executive Bernard J. Ebbers asked the judge to explain the final two paragraphs of the nine-count indictment and then adjourned its fourth day of deliberations without reaching a verdict.

"In order to find Mr. Ebbers guilty of counts 3-9, must we find him guilty of the supplemental allegations [in paragraphs] 46 + 47?" the forewoman wrote U.S. District Judge Barbara S. Jones on Wednesday.

Former WorldCom chief executive Bernard J. Ebbers is on trial for fraud. In its fourth day of deliberations, the jury asked for a clarification. (David Karp -- Bloomberg News)

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The judge replied that the answer was no and that "the supplemental allegations are irrelevant."

The two paragraphs, which make allegations about the size of the fraud and the number of people involved, are extraneous to the central charges against Ebbers and were added to the indictment last year in response to a Supreme Court decision about calculating prison sentences.

Ebbers's defense attorney Reid H. Weingarten immediately asked for a mistrial, noting that the defense team had argued before trial that the paragraphs were "prejudicial" and should be omitted from the copy given to the jury. Jones turned down the mistrial request, though she said Wednesday that the information probably should have been "struck."

Ebbers, 63, is charged with securities fraud, making false filings to the Securities and Exchange Commission and conspiring with WorldCom's former finance chief Scott D. Sullivan to inflate the company's earnings by making undisclosed additions to the revenue stream and by hiding expenses. Counts three through nine allege that Ebbers caused WorldCom to file seven false quarterly and annual reports from October 2000 to April 2002.

Prosecutors contended during the five-week trial that Ebbers was trying to prop up the stock price to prevent banks from calling in personal loans he had taken using his WorldCom shares as collateral. The defense argued that Sullivan masterminded the fraud without Ebbers's knowledge or consent and testified against his former boss to cut his prison time.

The seven women and five men on the jury also told the judge that they "would appreciate a change" from the cafeteria food and would like to order Domino's pizza for lunch on Thursday.

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