Skilling to Testify at Enron Trial

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Jeffrey Skilling, Enron's former CEO, is expected to take the witness stand in Houston. Skilling and his boss, Ken Lay, claim they didn't do anything illegal to cause the collapse of Enron. And Skilling is expected to testify that he didn't know about the illegal actions of finance-chief Andrew Fastow.


On Mondays our business news focuses on technology.

First, the latest on the Enron trial.

Jeffrey Skilling, the former CEO of Enron, is testifying today in Houston. He last spoke in his own defense before Congress in February 2002, two months after Enron filed for bankruptcy.

Mr. JEFFREY SKILLING (Former Enron CEO): Common decency suggests that I be treated as innocent until proven otherwise. Common sense suggests that accusations made now, before the facts are in, are likely to be wrong.

MONTAGNE: Jeffrey Skilling will tell his side in court over the next five or six days.

NPR's Wade Goodwyn reports.

WADE GOODWYN reporting:

Enron was once the pride of Houston; a magnificent, innovative, money-making marvel. But in 2001, the company went from $90 a share to worthless paper in the space of a year.

Jeff Skilling is about to sit down and try to explain to the jury how it happened and why he isn't guilty. Former federal prosecutor Chris Bevelle(ph) says Skilling does not come to this battle empty-handed.

Mr. CHRIS BEVELLE (Former Federal Prosecutor): Jeff Skilling achieved enormous success in the business world. He had tremendous abilities, tremendous sales attributes, and he will be putting his best foot forward.

GOODWYN: Skilling has two difficult mountains to climb. First, he must convince the jury that there is a compelling alternative scenario to the tale of greed and corruption prosecutors have deftly laid out. Then he must defend his version against what is going to be a determined and indignant cross-examination.

Bevelle, who specializes in white-collar crime and securities fraud, says prosecutors are going to attack Skilling using his own words, his public statements pumping up Enron's stock.

Mr. BEVELLE: And while he was uttering these highly optimistic statements bout the future business prospects of Enron, he was lining his pockets through massive stock sales, taking in tens of millions of dollars. Bottom line, that's going to be a big problem for Jeff Skilling.

GOODWYN: Skilling has to convince the jury that whatever his share of the blame, he committed no crimes. Today he steps into the spotlight under circumstances that demand the performance of his life.

Wade Goodwyn, NPR News.

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