Michael Rigas’ Lawyer: He Was Clueless

New York -- Opening statements in the Rigas fraud trial concluded Monday, with the attorney for Michael Rigas claming that the former Adelphia Communications Corp. executive vice president of operations had no clue as to what was happening on the financial side of the business.

Andrew Levander said in opening arguments that as Adelphia grew rapidly -- it went from 340,000 subscribers in 1986 to nearly 6 million by 2001 -- Michael Rigas was "overwhelmed" by operational issues at the company.

"You will not hear any evidence that Michael Rigas designed, directed, concocted or participated in any of the criminal acts purported by the government," Levander said in his opening statements.

Levander also denied that Michael Rigas fabricated subscriber numbers, adding that the difference between the number of subscribers Adelphia reported before the scandal broke in March 2001 and the restated results one year later -- when the company was under new management -- was just 27,000 subscribers.

He also stressed that Michael Rigas was a hard worker, putting in long hours at Adelphia, but he hinted that Michael Rigas wasn’t particularly bright.

"He worked hard in high school, he worked hard in college and he worked hard in law school," Levander said. "He was not the quickest wit in his class or the best student, but he worked hard."

Levander also added in his statement that Michael Rigas was often the subject of ridicule by other employees behind his back.

He pointed to an electronic mail sent between former Adelphia director of investor relations Karen Chrosniak and director of accounting Timothy Werth concerning a rise in Adelphia’s stock price. When Chrosniak expressed some surprise about the rise in the stock, Werth joked that the stock boost must be because Adelphia announced that Michael Rigas had been "demoted to janitor."

Both Werth and Chrosniak are scheduled to testify against the Rigases at some point during the trial.