Mistrial Declared on Michael Rigas Charges

New York -- U.S. District Court Judge Leonard Sand declared a mistrial in the fraud trial of former Adelphia Communications Corp. executive vice president of operations Michael Rigas after jurors said they would be unable to reach a verdict.

The mistrial came one day after that same jury convicted Rigas’ brother, Tim (Adelphia’s former chief financial officer), and father, John (former chairman of the MSO), on 18 counts of fraud and conspiracy.

A fourth former Adelphia executive -- ex-assistant treasurer Michael Mulcahey -- was acquitted Thursday of all charges. Michael Rigas had been found not guilty Thursday of one count of conspiracy and five counts of wire fraud.

Jurors said they were undecided on 17 counts in the indictment against Michael Rigas -- 15 counts of securities fraud and two counts of bank fraud. Sand instructed them to deliberate Friday at 10 a.m., hoping that hey could reach a unanimous decision.

Jurors asked for additional evidence in the early afternoon, but at 2:55 p.m., they sent a note to Sand. “Your honor, we’ve tried to no avail. Our decision remains undecided,” the jurors’ note said.

At that point, Sand discharged the jury and declared a mistrial. He commended the jury for their commitment.

“This was not a simple case,” Sand told the jury. “It involved many issues and concepts that you don’t encounter in your everyday life. I think you’ve done admirably.”

The question remains: What will happen to Michael Rigas?

Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Owens asked Sand to set a new trial date for Michael Rigas, but Sand declined, stating that any new trial date could be set at a scheduled hearing Sept. 21. He estimated that a new trial would take about one month.

“The issues are much narrower in a retrial,” Owens said in court.

The trial of the Rigases and Mulcahey lasted about four months.

However, Michael Rigas’ lawyers are hoping it won’t get to that stage.

“Michael Rigas is a free man,” said Kevin O’Brien, one of his attorneys, adding that he hoped that he and his partner, Andrew Levander, can convince the government not to prosecute their client again.

“Hopefully we can persuade the government that the interests of the public lie elsewhere,” O’Brien said outside the courtroom.