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July 24, 2005

The Chron interviews outgoing Enron Task Force Director

Andrew Weissman.jpgThe Chronicle's Mary Flood, who has done a fine job of covering the Enron case for the local newspaper, interviews Andrew Weissmann, the former Enron Task Force director who resigned as director of the Task Force this past week amidst widespread allegations of prosecutorial misconduct.

Overall, the interview is a disappointing fluff piece. Ms. Flood -- who, as the Chronicle's lead reporter on Enron, is not the best person to be ruffling feathers with the Task Force -- asks Mr. Weissman only a general question about prosecutorial misconduct and fails to follow that up with questions about specific instances of misconduct, such as the following:

The Task Force's questionable public relations campaign demonizing anything having to do with Enron;

The Task Force's poor trial record involving former Enron executives (one conviction of a mid-level manager out of seven Enron executives tried to date) compared with the Task Force's bludgeoning former Enron executives into plea bargains;

The Task Force's dubious policy of fingering potential defense witnesses as either unindicted co-conspirators or targets of the Enron criminal investigation to deter such witnesses from testifying for defendants in the Enron criminal trials;

The Task Force's disingenuous market loss arguments in connection with the sentencings of the five convicted Nigerian Barge defendants, which argument contradicted the Justice Department's position before the U.S. Supreme Court;

The dubious nature of the Task Force's prosecution of the Merrill Lynch executives in the Nigerian Barge case, particularly Daniel Bayly (note posts here and here) and William Fuhs.

The overreaching nature of the Task Force's prosecution of Arthur Andersen which the Supreme Court noted in its unanimous reversal of that conviction;

The Task Force's elicitation of false testimony from Ken Rice, its key witness in the Task Force's miserably failed Enron Broadband prosecution;

The Task Force threats toward two witnesses in the Broadband trial -- Beth Stier and Lawrence Ciscon -- who testified favorably for the defense in that trial;

A Task Force prosecutor's violation of the judge's instruction not to question witnesses on certain subjects during the Broadband trial; and

The strong evidence that the Task Force has been chilling witnesses favorable for the defense in the upcoming trial of former Enron key executives, Ken Lay, Jeff Skilling, and Richard Causey.

Given the extent of the foregoing instances of misconduct, if I would have been allowed one question of Mr. Weissman, it would have been the following:

"Do you believe that the end of convicting former Enron executives of crimes justifies the means by which you obtain such convictions?"

My sense is that most Chronicle readers would have been far more interested in Mr. Weissmann's answer to that question than his answer to the question of how has he enjoyed his time in Houston.

Posted by Tom at July 24, 2005 6:45 AM |

Comments

As a former Andersen partner, I think Andrew Weissmann is more interested in winning than being part of the process of administering justice. His and his team's behavior exemplifies what a criminal defense lawyer told me around the date of the Andersen indictment: "Everyone thinks the criminal justice system works fine until they become involved in it." At the time, I thought that the Task Force was either mean-spirited or dim-witted....subsequently I have concluded they are both. They clearly overreached on the jury instructions in the Andersen trial. Thank God for the Supreme Court.While I have not had direct contact with them, I understand, and this is hearsay, that they intimidated many Andersen employees. While I only followed Broadband trial in the paper, it was clear to me that the Task Force blew it. If you can't make your point quickly...and 12 weeks is not quickly...the jury is likely to be confused.

Posted by: Bob Palmquist at July 25, 2005 4:30 PM

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