Unless there is a last-minute settlement, the federal government and Big Five firm Arthur Andersen, LLP are scheduled to begin jury selection on Monday, May 6, in an obstruction of justice trial stemming from Andersen's admitted destruction of documents relating to its audit of Enron Corp.
The trial will be held in the Houston U.S. District Court presided over by U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon. Arguing for the prosecution will be Chief of the U.S. Attorney's Criminal Division in Brooklyn, Andrew Weissmann, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Samuel Buell who works with the Justice Department's organized crime task force in Boston. "They're extremely tenacious, extremely articulate, and extremely shrewd," said Mark Ressler, an attorney at Kasowitz Benson Torres & Friedman and a former federal prosecutor in Brooklyn.
Leading the Andersen legal team is Houston lawyer Rusty Hardin, formerly a prosecutor with the Harris County District Attorney's office specializing in death penalty cases. He was part of the prosecution team in the Whitewater litigation in Little Rock, and he gained notoriety in his successful defense of the son of Texas oil billionaire J. Howard Marshall II who wanted to protect his father's estate from his father's widow, Playboy model Anna Nicole Smith, who claimed the elder Marshall had promised her one-half of his assets. Mr. Hardin now runs a Houston criminal defense firm, Rusty Hardin & Associates. "He's a trial attorney par excellence," according to Cathy Cochran, a Houston judge in the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals who worked with Hardin for many years. Joining Mr. Hardin will be Dennis McInerny, also a former prosecutor and Whitewater attorney and a partner in the New York law firm of Davis, Polk and Wardell.
Jury selection will be completed in one day, and opening arguments from both sides are scheduled for Tuesday. The trial is scheduled to last approximately four weeks and Judge Harmon has already announced plans for a vacation beginning on May 30. The government case is expected to last 15 days and the Andersen team expects to complete its case in five days.