Enron Trial Set to Begin in January 2006

Claiming they need more time to prepare, defense attorneys have convinced a federal judge to postpone the start of the main Enron trial until January 2006.

The case against Enron founder Kenneth Lay, former CEO Jeffrey Skilling and chief accounting officer Richard Causey is now scheduled to begin on Jan. 17, 2006 with Judge Sim Lake presiding. The three defendants had sought a Dec. 1 start and the prosecutors were angling for a September trial, but the judge went with the January date to avoid holiday-related delays.

The case is the focal point of the many legal actions stemming from the December 2001 collapse of what was then the nation's seventh largest public company.

The company spiraled into bankruptcy after an accounting scandal was uncovered. The Justice Department has investigated Enron and numerous other cases since the spate of corporate scandals began with the energy giant's downfall.

Skilling and Causey face more than 30 counts of fraud, conspiracy, insider trading and other charges. They are accused of being in on or knowing about various schemes to manufacture profits and hide debt in the years leading to Enron's crash, USA Today reported.

Lay faces seven counts of fraud and conspiracy that he took control of the ruse when Skilling abruptly resigned less than four months before Enron crumbled, USA Today reported, adding that all three have pleaded not guilty.

Lay faces additional charges of bank fraud and three more counts of lying to banks about his plan to use loans to buy Enron stock on margin. Mike Ramsey, Lay's lead lawyer, said his team intends for that case to stay on the back burner until the conspiracy case concludes, USA Today reported.

"My notion is to devote our time and energy to the main case," Ramsey told USA Today.

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