A federal judge yesterday denied a govenment request for a two-week delay in the Justice Department's antitrust case against American Telephone & Telegraph Co.
Government attorney Gerald Connell made the request as the fourth day of the trial opened. Connell asked that the delay begin Friday because the presentation of the government's case has moved more quickly than expected. He also said there were difficulties in negotiating the "stipulation" process the court has instituted in an effort to narrow the case down to the key issues.
But U.S. District Court Judge Harold Green rejected the government's request. "I am not going to allow the case to be bogged down until the govenment decides how to proceed."
The government request came as the trial entered its second week. The Justice Department has charged AT&T with violating antitrust laws during the early 1970's and is seeking to break up the Bell System.
Greene said there was no reason why the government could not move to other parts of the case while the stipulation negotiations presenting detailed evidence on allegations invloving AT&T's actions in the telephone equipment business and the problems AT&T competitors faced in entering the business in the early 1970s.
Connell said Green's decision would hurt the government's ability to present a cogent case. "I think that the persuasiveness of your case is diminished if you present it in a ramdom order," Connell said.
AT&T attorney George Sanders, said AT&T would not object to the delay if attorneys for the defendants were given appropriate notice of the government's trial plans. "They're having a hard time finding any substantial witness to support their case," Saunders said outside the courtroom during a recess.
The process has resulted in agreements on 50 percent of the original charges. Of the remaining charges, 80 percent are either in negotiation or the final settlement stage. But talks between the two sides have slowed as the attorneys began focusing on more controversial areas of the case.
"Everybody seems to be pretty agreed that the negotiation process as presently constituted will take longer than is desirable, appropriate or indeed permissable," Connell told Greene.
Lowell Hoxie, a former vice president of Litton Industries, who was with the company during an effort to compete with AT&T in the switchboard business, took the stand after Green's afternoon ruling and testified about Litton's difficulties entering the business. Litton is currently suing AT&T for about $600 million in an antitrust case in New York.