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Ex-Enron Executive Seeks Retrial in Broadband Case

A lawyer says some jurors were unfairly pressured to reach a unanimous verdict.

June 14, 2006|From the Associated Press

HOUSTON — Lawyers for a former Enron Corp. broadband executive found guilty last month on fraud and conspiracy charges have asked for a new trial after several jurors said they felt pressured to convict.

Affidavits by two jurors and two alternate jurors were part of a 90-page motion by attorneys for former broadband unit finance chief Kevin Howard, who was convicted on five counts of fraud, conspiracy and falsifying records.

The same panel acquitted former in-house accountant Michael Krautz of the same charges after a monthlong trial.

In their affidavits, the jurors said they believed they had been instructed by U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore and subsequently pressured by other jurors to reach a unanimous verdict and avoid a hung jury, even though they believed Howard, 43, was innocent.

A case last year against Howard, Krautz and three other broadband executives ended with a hung jury. Howard and Krautz were the first to be retried.

"There was just so much pressure to change my vote that I felt like we had to compromise and give in to the majority because I felt like there was no other choice," juror Anne Marie Campbell said in her affidavit.

Jaclyn Lesch, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, said Tuesday she could not comment on the motion.

Howard and Krautz were accused of participating in a small piece of the fraud that brought down Enron in 2001.

Prosecutors said they took part in a scheme to manufacture earnings for Enron's flailing broadband unit in late 2000. Dubbed "Project Braveheart," the deal involved selling an interest in future revenue of a video-on-demand venture that disintegrated a few months later.

The verdict in their retrial came six days after another Houston-area jury convicted Enron founder Kenneth L. Lay and former Enron Chief Executive Jeffrey K. Skilling of fraud, conspiracy and other charges as part of a massive effort to deceive investors and employees about Enron's financial strength.

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