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Prosecutors Seek 215-Year Terms in Adelphia Trial

They say John and Timothy Rigas' crimes call for unusually tough sentences. The defense wants home detention or probation.

June 14, 2005|From Bloomberg News

Adelphia Communications Corp. founder John Rigas and his son Timothy deserve 215 years in prison for their fraud and conspiracy convictions, U.S. prosecutors told the sentencing judge in court papers.

John Rigas, 80, Adelphia's former chief executive, and Timothy, 49, former finance chief, face sentencing June 20 in federal court in New York, where they were convicted in July. Lawyers for the Rigases asked U.S. District Judge Leonard Sand for leniency, seeking probation or home detention.

Prosecutors asked for the unusually tough sentences because of how the Rigases forced Adelphia, the No. 5 U.S. cable television operator, into bankruptcy in June 2002. The Rigases used Adelphia as a "private ATM" to fund $50 million in cash advances, buy $1.6 billion in securities and repay $252 million in margin loans, prosecutors say.

"The defendants' criminal conduct, motivated by greed and the desire to retain their power and control over Adelphia, stands among the most serious economic crimes ever committed," prosecutors said in a sentencing memorandum unsealed June 10.

Sand, who presided over the five-month trial, can accept or reject the recommendations of the prosecutors and the Rigas attorneys. He also will consider a sentencing recommendation by the U.S. Probation Department, which prepared a report for Sand. Those recommendations remain under court seal.

The Rigases already have agreed to forfeit assets valued at hundreds of millions of dollars to compensate victims of the fraud. Adelphia will pay $715 million, and the Rigases will turn over 95% of their assets to the company, including most of their cable systems, about $10 million in real estate and some $567 million in Adelphia securities.

Prosecutors said Sand should follow U.S. sentencing guidelines, which are advisory and call for a 215-year term.

The sentences "could well be seen as sort of a top range for corporate criminals," prosecutors wrote. Portions of the memos by prosecutors and defense attorneys remain under seal.

Lawyers for John and Timothy Rigas say they're innocent and are appealing the convictions.

They filed memos citing the Rigases' good works in Coudersport, Pa., a rural community where John Rigas founded Adelphia a half-century ago. New management moved the headquarters to Greenwood Village, Colo.

Attorneys for John Rigas said the case had "near-tragic overtones" for a man who spent his life building the company. Rigas has suffered enough since his disgrace began three years ago, wrote his attorneys, Peter Fleming and Ben Preziosi.

"After a long life of work, accomplishment and devotion to a small town and its citizens, he has lost the company he built and loved, as well as the wealth he deserved," Fleming and Preziosi wrote. "He stands, and will stand in history, as a supposed symbol of corporate greed and corruption. It seems fair to ask: Is this not enough to deter others?"

Rigas had triple-bypass heart surgery in 1999 and has bladder cancer. He has made several trips to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

His memo quotes several letters from his supporters. Letters from his doctors weren't made public.

In their memo, lawyers for Timothy Rigas said he had "led a life marked by love of family and dedication to Adelphia and to community." They quoted from letters by supporters who "continue to believe him to be a man of integrity and decency."

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