Prosecution Accuses Lay of Trying to Tamper With Witnesses
Wednesday, April 26, 2006; 6:33 PM
HOUSTON, April 26 -- Government prosecutor John Hueston opened his cross-examination of Enron founder Kenneth L. Lay Wednesday afternoon with rapid-fire questions and accusations, charging Lay with trying to tamper with some government witnesses before their testimony, engaging in "character assassination" of others and eliciting an admission from Lay that he violated Enron's code of ethics.
Lay is facing six counts of fraud for what the government contends is his role in the 2001 collapse of the energy giant. He was chief executive of the company from August 2001 -- when Jeffrey K. Skilling, who faces 28 counts of fraud, left the company -- until Enron filed for bankruptcy in December 2001.
Lay, who has grumbled at his own lawyer, George "Mac" Secrest, during the past three days, appeared caught off-guard by the fusillade and struggled to answer Hueston, angrily lashing back at times.
"Sir, you have engaged in character assassination of witnesses in this trial," Hueston said.
"Are you considering yourself" among them, Lay asked, drawing gasps from trial observers.
"I'm an attorney and I'm doing my job," Hueston said. "You can call me anything you want."
"I just want to make sure who's on the list and who's not," Lay said, eliciting more gasps and some laughter.
Hueston accused Lay of phoning at least two prosecution witnesses just before their testimony to "get their stories straight." Further, Hueston revealed, lawyers for one of the witnesses repeatedly called Lay's lawyers to try to prevent him from contacting witnesses again.
Lay acknowledged he had called the witnesses, but he said it was only to refresh his memory of events. And he did not know they were possible witnesses, he said.
One witness "was on the government witness list, sir," Hueston said.
Hueston reminded Lay that his lead attorney, Michael Ramsey, referred to former Enron treasurer Benjamin Glisan as a "monkey." Later, Lay himself called Glisan a "liar." Glisan has pleaded guilty to fraud and cooperated with government lawyers.
"While you were saying these things, in fact did you approach Mr. Glisan in the bathroom [of the] witness area of this courthouse and tell him you had kind feelings for him and his family?" Hueston asked.