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Enron founder Kenneth Lay doesn’t want to go to trial alongside his one-time protege, former CEO Jeffrey Skilling. The feeling is mutual. Both argue in court filings — Skilling in papers filed Friday, Lay earlier this month — that the allegations against them thinly overlap if at all, so they should be tried separately. The government wants to try them and the third co-defendant in their pending indictment, former Enron chief accounting officer Richard Causey, together in March next year. Lay wants a trial as soon as possible, and Skilling and Causey want another year and a half to prepare. Lay’s legal team asked that he be tried alone, and said he would forego his right to face a jury and leave his fate in a judge’s hands if that would get a speedy trial. U.S. District Judge Sim Lake said he would rule on all the separate trial requests by early October. The 53-count indictment charging each man with various crimes stemming from Enron’s 2001 collapse began in January with a few charges against Causey. Skilling was added as a defendant in February, and Lay was added last month. Skilling and Causey each face more than 30 counts of conspiracy, fraud, lying to auditors and insider trading in relation to alleged schemes stretching over nearly three years before Enron’s crash. Prosecutors allege they participated in various schemes to fool investors and analysts into thinking Enron was healthier than it was, and both profited from sales of inflated stock. Lay faces 11 counts of conspiracy, fraud and lying to banks. The much narrower case against him alleges that he took the reins of the conspiracy after Skilling abruptly resigned in August 2001 after serving as CEO for just six months. Charges of bank fraud and lying to banks allege Lay misled banks about using loans to buy Enron stock on margin. All three have pleaded innocent. “The addition of Lay to the indictment has only heightened the risk that even the most conscientious, well-instructed jurors will be unable to ‘compartmentalize the evidence’ as it relates to Skilling and Lay,” Skilling’s lawyers said in Friday’s filing. Skilling’s team also asked Lake to consider a separate trial for Causey on some of the charges — money laundering and insider trading — that don’t overlap with those against Skilling. But Causey also wants a trial of his own because, among other things, Skilling and Lay have more notoriety. “Of all onetime Enron employees, Mr. Lay and Mr. Skilling unquestionably have the highest name recognition among the general Houston populace,” Causey’s lawyers said in another filing Friday. While Causey “harbors grave doubts” about whether he can receive a fair trial at all in Houston, a trial separate from Skilling and Lay “will at least increase the likelihood that we can impanel a fair and unbiased jury,” his lawyers said. But if a complete separation isn’t granted, Causey — like Skilling — wants certain charges against his co-defendants that don’t overlap with charges against him to be addressed in a separate trial. Skilling and Causey’s lawyers also plan to ask that they be tried outside of Houston and the 13-county area from which jurors are chosen to ensure a fair trial. Lake told the legal teams he wanted them to file change of venue requests within 20 days of his ruling on separate trials, but Skilling and Causey want to hold off on submitting a change of venue request until March. In court papers filed earlier last week, Skilling and Causey said they need time to hire experts and conduct surveys of potential jurors to gauge whether they can be fair or if they already overwhelmingly believe the former executives are guilty. Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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