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Rigases’ Judge Hopes Trial Starts March 1

New York -- Jury selection for the federal fraud trial of former Adelphia Communications Corp. founder John Rigas, his two sons and former vice president and assistant treasurer Michael Mulcahey is set to begin here Monday -- the start of what could be a long and contentious proceeding.

Rigas, two sons (former Adelphia chief financial officer Timothy Rigas and former executive VP of operations Michael Rigas) and Mulcahey were indicted on 24 counts of mail fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud and conspiracy in September.

All four men have pleaded innocent.

Jury selection could take a long as one week. In a pre-trial hearing Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Leonard Sand said he hoped the trial could begin by March 1.

No one knows how long the trial will run, but the consensus among people familiar with the case is that it will last at least two months.

At the Rigases’ arraignment last October, the U.S. Attorney said it would take at least eight weeks to present its case.

The prosecution’s star witness is expected to be former Adelphia VP of finance Jim Brown, who pleaded guilty to three counts of fraud in November 2002, supposedly in exchange for his testimony.

Brown’s testimony could be particularly damaging to the Rigases in that he was a close confidant of Tim Rigas and, according to prosecutors, he sat in on meetings where he and Tim Rigas fabricated cash-flow and revenue numbers before releasing quarterly results to Wall Street.

Just who else would be called to the witness stand remains a mystery. Although all attorneys in the case are required to submit witness lists to the court, they are rarely made public.

According to the indictment, the Rigases are accused of looting Adelphia for their own personal use and using the MSO to guarantee billions of dollars in loans the family used to buy company stock.

For more on the Rigas trial, please see Mike Farrell’s story on page 6 of Monday’s edition of Multichannel News.