A foul odor emanates from the Enron Broadband trial

The slumbering Enron Broadband trial was jolted Friday as Lawrence Ciscon — a former Enron Broadband systems engineer who the Enron Task Force has fingered as a target of its ongoing criminal investigation — dramatically testified that Enron Task Force prosecutors had repeatedly threatened him in attempting to dissuade him from testifying on behalf of the five Enron Broadband defendants.

The sparks began to fly when the prosecution attempted during cross-examination to impeach Mr. Ciscon’s favorable testimony for the defendants that had been elicited during his direct examination. On cross, the prosecution had Mr. Ciscon confirm that prosecutors had advised him that he was a target of the Task Force’s ongoing criminal investigation, thereby implying that Mr. Ciscon was testifying in favor of the Broadband defendants to save his own skin.

On re-direct examination, Mr. Ciscon confirmed that prosecutors had recently made three telephone calls to his attorney to “remind” Mr. Ciscon that he remained a target of the Task Force’s criminal investigation.

Defense counsel then asked Mr. Ciscon whether he considered those calls to his attorney as a “warning” not to testify? Mr. Ciscon replied that he did not consider the calls as merely a warning, but a “threat” by the Task Force prosecutors.

After that explosive testimony, the prosecution on re-cross-examination had Mr. Ciscon confirm that the prosecution’s calls had all been to his attorney and that he had not talked directly with the prosecutors. Then, in a questionable move that simply highlighted the prosecution’s thinly-veiled threat to Mr. Ciscon, the prosecution requested that Judge Gilmore strike Mr. Ciscon’s testimony about the calls as inadmissible hearsay testimony.

Judge Gilmore — who favored the prosecution during the early stages of the trial, but appears to be warming to the defense recently — quickly denied the prosecution’s request and pointed out that the government had waived any objection to Mr. Ciscon’s testimony on the subject. The jurors watched the entire episode with rapt attention.

As noted in this previous post, the Task Force used the same tactic effectively during the trial of the Nigerian Barge case to suppress the testimony of dozens of former Enron employees who would have likely contradicted the testimony of Ben Glisan, the prosecution’s main witness in that trial.

However, due to the fact that none of the “chilled” witnesses in the Nigerian Barge trial came forward to testify as Mr. Ciscon has courageously done in the Broadband trial, the jury in the Nigerian Barge trial never heard about the government’s tactic of fingering witnesses as targets of its criminal investigation to suppress favorable testimony for the Nigerian Barge defendants.

Thus, in a trial that looked like a tap-in for the prosecution at the beginning, a feisty defense team appears to have the Enron Task Force prosecutors on their heels. Earlier in the trial, the prosecution was in a similar position when it allowed its key witness to testify falsely regarding a video shown to the jury and then compounded that mistake by attempting to blame the error on a clearly intimidated woman who previously provided video services for Enron.

Moreover, as this Mary Flood/Chronicle article reports, the prosecution’s case appears to be so weak against two of the Enron Broadband defendants that they and their counsel are practically being ignored at this point in the trial.

Alas, one can only speculate as to the effect that any of this has on the jury. Three of the Enron Broadband defendants still have to overcome the “elephant in the courtroom” — that is, the huge amount of money that they made from Enron stock sales during the period in which they were making their allegedly false public statements. That is no easy task under even the best of circumstances.

But regardless of the outcome of this trial, the Enron Task Force’s ugly tactic of effectively suppressing important testimony of witnesses favorable to Enron defendants has now been fully exposed.

As a result — and particularly in view of the Task Force’s ongoing effort to suppress virtually all testimony favorable for the defendants in its case against former Enron CEO Jeff Skilling and former Enron chairman Ken Lay — it is becoming clearer by the day that our government’s “Justice” Department is not interested in justice at all when it comes to prosecuting unpopular business executives.

3 thoughts on “A foul odor emanates from the Enron Broadband trial

  1. Care to take a poll of how many unindicted co-conspirators in the recent spree of white collar conspiracy prosecutions are sent target notices right before a trial and then..nothing happens? It would seem that if prosecutors get a guilty verdict, they would rush to indict the alleged co-conspirators who are sitting at home waiting for the ax to drop, yet interestingly, it doesn’t. Target notices are prosecutors’ threat of imminent and serious trouble coming so the unindicted stay silent and this tactic virtually eliminates any chance of favorable testimony for the defense by anyone actually involved in these transactions. The only testimony from persons actually involved comes with the prosecutors stamp of approval. If this isn’t suppressing evidence, I don’t know what is. It shouldn’t take uncommon courage, as in Mr. Ciscon’s case, to publicly disagree with government prosecutors, yet it does. The neat trick is that, once prosecutors coerce a plea deal and testimony, no one gets to talk about the level of threats and strong arming it took to make them give in. Once the deal is struck, they must stick to the script. Mr. Ciscon and his family took a great risk for the sake of truth. I hope in turn, that the truth will protect them. By the way, it seems Mr. Spitzer’s spokesperson who was bragging that they got multiple guilty pleas and millions in agreed settlements to soften the disapointment of Sihpol’s acquittal, doesn’t recognize that they are simply admitting to having coerced people to say they are criminals and coerced millions in monetary settlements with evidence that a New York jury said was insufficient. Amazing that they would publicly pat themselves on the back for that- but then, there has been a lot about this system and its players that continues to amaze me.

  2. Another tactic employed with great success by the Task Force has been their ability to obtain jury instructions which confuse legal but perhaps unpopular actions with illegal actions. Consequently, when defendants are shown through the course of trial to have been involved in some way with highly emotional unpopular events – and without the benefit of testimony from suppressed favorable witnesses – they are wrongly convicted by juries instructed to view their actions as illegal. Unfortunately, by the time such convictions are properly reversed (witness the recent Supreme Court decison re: Arthur Andersen) companies have been destroyed and peoples lives have been devastated. One can only hope that in other cases completed – especially the Nigerian Barge Transaction case where defendants suffered the same abuses – similar improper convictions will be reversed, and that such tactics can be eliminated in future cases. Let’s get back to the pursuit of real justice.

  3. Tom,
    I was able to spend a couple of hours this morning over at the Enron Broadband trial…a really good experience for me, although admittedly, not in the midst of terribly interesting testimony (should have been there Thurs/Fri).
    I have met Jack Zimmerman and Jim Lavine previously, so I was able to speak with them a bit during a break and before the lunch break – wonderful attorney’s.
    Off topic: did you design the Enron Broadband graphic you are using? Would you mind if I linked to it on my blog?

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