Jury Declares Lay and Skilling Guilty of Fraud Former Enron Corp. chiefs Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling are convicted Thursday of conspiracy to commit securities and wire fraud in a case born from one of the biggest business scandals in U.S. history. The pair now face lengthy prison sentences.
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Jury Declares Lay and Skilling Guilty of Fraud

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Jury Declares Lay and Skilling Guilty of Fraud

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

The verdict in one of the biggest white-collar trials in American history is in and it is overwhelmingly guilty. Today, a jury convicted former Enron executives Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling on charges of fraud, conspiracy and insider trading. The jury deliberated over six days before convicting Lay on all counts and Skilling on 19 counts out of 28. In a moment we'll hear reaction from one former Enron employee who helped blow the whistle on the company.

First, more on the verdict from NPR's Wade Goodwyn, who was in the courtroom.

WADE GOODWYN reporting:

As they awaited their fate in the packed courtroom, Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling were portraits of anxiety. Skilling stood next to his lawyer, Daniel Petrocelli, and Ken Lay stood near the back of the defense table so his wife could be by his side. As the jury filed in, the tension was so high it seemed hard to get a breath. Judge Sim Lake read the jury's verdict and Skilling was first.

Guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty. Lake's voice rang out the word 19 times as he read through the counts.

Next was Lay and Judge Lake repeated his guilty refrain. The former chairman of Enron was found guilty of every count of conspiracy and fraud he faced. Lay's wife, Linda, began to weep into her husband's shoulder even before his decision was read. Skilling and Petrocelli were the first to leave the courthouse and they put as brave a face on as they could.

Mr. DANIEL PETROCELLI (Attorney for Jeff Skilling): We had a trial. Obviously it did not come out the way we had hoped. It doesn't change our view of what happened at Enron and it certainly doesn't change our view of Jeff Skilling's innocence. The jury saw it differently. That was their right and we will take it from here and continue to fight the good fight.

GOODWYN: When Jeff Skilling was asked whether he'd ever admit he is guilty and whether he ever committed any crimes, he was succinct.

Mr. JEFF SKILLING (Former CEO, Enron): Obviously I'm disappointed, but you know, that's the way the system works.

GOODWYN: After more than four years of investigation and prosecution, today's verdict was an overwhelming success for the federal government. Assistant U.S. Attorney John Houston wanted to make sure this outcome was understood as a message to CEOs around the nation.

Mr. JOHN HOUSTON (Assistant U.S. Attorney): CEOs cannot hide behind accountants. They can't hide behind lawyers. They can't hide behind claims of ignorance. That's especially when they've been paid tens of millions of dollars to be the faithful stewards of shareholders and investors.

GOODWYN: Afterwards, the jury of eight women and four men met with the media to explain their verdict. After 16 weeks together they said they were like a family, a bond closer than friendship, and that they were proud of themselves and their careful deliberations. And they were emphatic that Lay and Skilling were the ones in charge and they were accountable for the disastrous outcome at Enron. Juror Freddie Delgado runs an elementary school.

Mr. FREDDIE DELGADO (Enron Juror): Personally, I'm a principal, so I can't say that I don't know what my teachers were doing in the classroom. I am still responsible if a child gets lost, so I would say that to say that you didn't know what was going on in your own company was not the right thing.

GOODWYN: Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling now face decades in prison. They will be sentenced on September 11.

Wade Goodwyn, NPR News, Houston.

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