Jurors in the federal fraud trial of four former Adelphia Communications Corp. executives continued their deliberations last week, requesting dozens of documents and testimony from the four-month trial — but failing to reach a verdict before the holiday weekend.
Former Adelphia chairman John Rigas; his sons, former chief financial officer Timothy Rigas and former executive vice president of operations Michael; and former assistant treasurer Michael Mulcahey are accused of 23 counts of fraud and conspiracy. All four men have pleaded not guilty.
The jury of seven women and five men spent last week requesting reams of documents from the lengthy and complicated trial, ranging from financial reports, wire-transfer documents and even a video clip from an Adelphia managers' meeting featuring a short speech by Michael Rigas.
Last Friday, jurors started out asking to leave at 3 p.m. to beat the holiday traffic. They then asked for seven documents related to securities-fraud charges. Judge Leonard Sand approved the early exit, but said that when deliberations resume July 6, they would be for extended hours.
Just which way the jury is leaning is anyone's guess. As one courtroom source put it: “You learn two things in law school: the first is you can never guess what a jury is thinking, and the second is you will never stop trying.”
So far the documents the jury has requested have run the gamut.
Last Monday, jurors requested 17 government exhibits and 19 pages of the trial transcript, mainly dealing with the case against John and Tim Rigas.
On Tuesday, the jury asked for nearly two dozen government exhibits, also dealing with John and Tim Rigas and Mulcahey.
Throughout the trial, the government's best case appeared to be against John and Tim Rigas. Day after day, during the early days of the trial, the jury was presented with reams of documents that showed how John Rigas regularly billed Adelphia for phantom users of company condominiums, and drew as much as $50 million from Adelphia's cash management system for his own personal use.
The government's case against Tim Rigas appeared to be equally strong — including documents that showed how Tim used company funds for country club memberships and used Adelphia's plane to shuttle an actress and his golf pro on fancy vacations.
Testimony from the government's star witness, former Adelphia vice president of finance Jim Brown, also seemed to implicate Tim Rigas the most.
During 14 days on the stand, Brown told jurors he discussed the details of how to inflate Adelphia's financial numbers with Tim Rigas more than with the other defendants, but that John and Michael Rigas knew the public filings did not represent real performance.
Early last Wednesday, jurors also requested testimony from former Adelphia vice president of finance and administration LeMoyne Zacherl.
Zacherl — who resigned from Adelphia in 1994, long before the period covered by the indictment — had testified that he warned John and Tim Rigas that Adelphia was improperly paying for personal expenses for the Rigas family, and that such expenditures required approval from the board of directors and should be disclosed to the public.
But the tide seemed to shift later that day, when jurors focused their requests on evidence relating to Michael Rigas.
Among their requests were 13-D filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission regarding family stock transfers signed by Michael Rigas, documents outlining several wire transfers of money into Rigas family accounts, as well as two SEC documents — a proxy statement for Adelphia's 1999 annual meeting; and an executive compensation revision for the same 1999 proxy statement — and the minutes for two company board meetings in August and November of 2001.
Last Thursday, the jury asked for the trial transcript for May 17, 2004, which included testimony from Brown.
That transcript dealt mostly with the first day of the two-day cross-examination of Brown by Mike Rigas's lawyer, Andrew Levander.
The jury also asked to view a video clip from an Adelphia managers meeting where Mike Rigas told the audience that in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., Adelphia had a commitment to serve the community.
In the clip, Mike Rigas said that the terrorist attacks proved “how fragile human life is, and how futile, in the end, our worldly commitments are.”
Nothing seemed to illustrate that futility more than the trial itself. The Rigases and Mulcahey are accused of looting hundreds of millions of dollars of Adelphia money for their personal use, as well as using $2.3 billion in loans that the cable company was liable for to purchase cable systems and Adelphia shares.
MARCH 1 START
Through the course of the trial — which started on March 1 — prosecutors have painted a picture of runaway greed on behalf of the Rigases, who they claimed used Adelphia as their personal ATM and piggy bank. Mulcahey, who as assistant treasurer signed off on many of the transactions the government claims were illegal, was nicknamed Mike “OK to Pay” Mulcahey, for how he almost cavalierly approved the transactions.
Defense attorneys stuck to a strategy that the Rigases had intended to repay the loans, and had the wherewithal to do it before Adelphia was plunged into Chapter 11 bankruptcy in June 2002.
Defense lawyers also painted the government's prosecution as a “witch hunt” and “Rigas-cide,” a play on the word regicide.
Facing 23 counts of fraud and conspiracy, the Rigases and Mulcahey could face as much as 20 years in prison each.
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