Enron trial legal teams settled in for a long haul

HOUSTON (AP) – Jeffrey Skilling used to hash out ideas and strategies on huge erasable boards when he was CEO of Enron Corp. Now his legal team is using his methods in the so-called war room they’ve set up for his upcoming trial.

The mini-law firm outfitted with desks, couches, fake plants and shelves housing thousands of black three-ring binders is one of many signs that Skilling’s legal team and other out-of-towners involved in the trial have settled into Houston for a long haul.

After Skilling joined Enron in 1990, he ordered revamping of entire floors at the company’s then-downtown Houston headquarters to shed traditional walls and corridors, opting for a more open layout and the erasable boards to map out anything from a new commodity market to a division’s chain of command.

He did the same for his lawyers’ outpost in a skyscraper across the street from the federal courthouse where a dozen jurors will decide whether Skilling and Enron founder Kenneth Lay illegally hid Enron’s true condition from investors, analysts and employees before the company imploded in 2001.

The trial is scheduled to begin with jury selection on Jan. 30. Skilling faces 35 counts of fraud, conspiracy, insider trading and lying to auditors, while Lay faces seven counts of fraud and conspiracy. Both have pleaded not guilty.

“Jeff designed all this,” his lead trial lawyer, Daniel Petrocelli, said recently of the rooms established about six months ago to give Skilling’s legal team of a dozen lawyers and four paralegals a private spot to go over testimony and prepare for what’s to come.

Most of Lay’s five lawyers live in Houston and already have firms in the city. But Michael Ramsey, Lay’s lead criminal attorney, has long had a loft in the downtown Rice Hotel.

Ramsey’s cluttered digs look lived-in, packed with books, largely non-fiction and biographies.

“When I’m in trial my wife doesn’t like me very much anyway, so I live there four nights a week,” Ramsey said.

Ramsey said the loft also serves as his team’s war room, though Petrocelli expects Lay’s legal team to spend a fair amount of time in the Skilling headquarters during the trial because it’s closer to the courthouse.

Leave a Reply