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Former Rite Aid Executive's Case Headed to Jury

October 15, 2003|From Associated Press

HARRISBURG, Pa. — The federal government's conspiracy and fraud case against former Rite Aid Corp. chief counsel Franklin C. Brown moved a step closer to the jury Tuesday, as the lead prosecutor called the executive "a master manipulator" and Brown's own lawyer defended him as a kindly and innocent "old man shuffling around."

U.S. District Judge Sylvia Rambo said she would instruct the jury of eight women and four men this morning.

Brown, who is charged with 11 counts stemming from alleged schemes to defraud the nation's No. 3 drugstore chain and its stockholders, "attempted to line his pockets with millions of shareholders' dollars" at a time Rite Aid faced serious financial problems, Assistant U.S. Atty. Kim Douglas Daniel said.

Brown's lead attorney, Reid Weingarten, said the government was exaggerating his client's culpability.

Weingarten dismissed statements by Brown, which were secretly taped for prosecutors by another Rite Aid executive, as innocent "gossip." And he suggested that some of the former Rite Aid executives who testified against Brown had lied.

Brown, 75, wanted "to help Rite Aid, not to rip off Rite Aid," Weingarten said. The executive was "an old man shuffling around, trying to be useful, trying to be involved" in a fast-moving investigation.

As a result of the alleged fraud, the Camp Hill, Pa.-based company was forced to retroactively reduce its earnings by $1.6 billion in July 2000.

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