Ex-Adelphia Four Begin Their Defense

Defense attorneys for four former Adelphia Communications Corp. executives began their closing arguments Thursday afternoon, with one lawyer for former chairman John Rigas using his time to try to discredit the government’s star witness, former Adelphia vice president of finance Jim Brown.

John Rigas, sons Michael and Timothy and former assistant treasurer Michael Mulcahey are charged with 24 counts of fraud and conspiracy for allegedly defrauding investors and bilking the company of hundreds of millions of dollars for their personal use.

John Rigas’ attorney, Peter Fleming, used the better part of two hours trying to poke holes in the government’s case, reiterating that his client never sold a share of stock and claiming that the former chairman had borrowed money through family partnerships not for his personal use, but to ensure that the company would be in compliance with its debt covenants.

Fleming saved his most stinging comments for Brown, who pleaded guilty to three counts of fraud in November 2002 but cut a deal with prosecutors for a lesser sentence in return for his testimony.

Calling Brown “essentially without conscience,” Fleming told the jury that Brown lied on the stand and that his testimony was self-serving.

“Jim Brown is all about Jim Brown,” he added.

Fleming also disputed government claims that John Rigas used Adelphia money to buy 3,600 acres of timberland in Coudersport, Pa., “so he could look out of his front window.”

“If you saw this on Seinfeld, you’d double up,” he added.

Earlier in the day, assistant U.S. attorney Christopher Clark wrapped up his closing arguments, telling jurors that the Rigases ignored the best interests of shareholders for their own personal gain.

Clark also defended Brown, saying that he was more credible than Mulcahey, who, earlier in his testimony, needed a break because he was overheated.

Clark said Brown did not “break down in a sweat and panic or have to ask for a break so he could try to think of some new story to tell because he'd been caught in a lie.”

Fleming will continue his closing arguments Friday.