Andersen Defense Takes Center Stage

They say there's no rest for the weary. This Memorial Day weekend there was no rest for the trial participants, who are probably pretty weary themselves. While others around the country enjoyed barbecues and auto racing and said solemn words for those who gave their lives for our country, the U.S. Department of Justice and Big Five firm Andersen continued to slug it out in a courtroom in Houston.

The prosecution presented its last witness on Monday, Memorial Day; then the Andersen defense team raised a motion to acquit Andersen on grounds that the prosecution did not adequately prove its obstruction of justice case against Andersen. After Judge Melinda Harmon denied the motion, Andersen presented its first of a possible 12 witnesses.

The prosecution's 19th and last witness, FBI agent Paula Schanzle, testified that she had participated in the examination of some 30,000 Andersen e-mail messages that had been deleted and subsequently recovered, that she personally examined "more than half" of the documents, and that the "vast majority" of the messages were Enron-related.

The defense's first witness, Andersen partner Richard Corgel, described his impression of the controversial e-mail message sent by firm lawyer Nancy Temple that some see as the go-ahead order to begin the mass destruction of Enron-related documents. Mr. Corgel stated that the document destruction represented good housekeeping and that the message did not specifically urge the destruction of Enron documents. Mr. Corgel suggested that he may have provided the instigation for the memo when he spoke with Ms. Temple about the need to discard unneeded documents. "Quite frankly, my computer was getting bogged down and I am the one who asked the question: 'Can't we get rid of all these previous drafts?'"

The prosecution has asked to examine copies of Andersen's workpapers supporting the Enron audit. Approximately 500 boxes of workpapers are being held under guard at Andersen's Houston offices and, according to defense lawyers, the prosecution team has had access to those workpapers for several months.

The Andersen team expects to complete its defense by the end of this week.

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