- The Washington Times - Friday, March 10, 2006

HOUSTON (AP) — Before former Enron Chief Financial Officer Andrew Fastow took the witness stand this week in the fraud and conspiracy trial of his bosses, Jeffrey Skilling and Kenneth Lay, he had a certain swagger.

Now the 44-year-old just looks beaten.

“I think I said on more than one occasion yesterday that I was greedy,” he said on the second day of a cross-examination by lead Skilling lawyer Daniel Petrocelli. The attorney relentlessly shamed the ex-CFO as a liar, cheat and thief who roped his wife into his crimes and watched her serve a year in prison.

Mr. Petrocelli’s punches left jurors to decide whether they can believe the prosecution’s most highly anticipated witness.

Fastow testified that he had no written proof that he and former Chief Executive Officer Skilling discussed the ex-CFO’s use of partnerships to help Enron manipulate earnings and that they “committed crimes together.”

He also said Mr. Lay knew Enron was in serious financial trouble by the fall of 2001, even as the company founder gave rosy reports of its health to investors, employees and reporters. Lead Lay lawyer Michael Ramsey will get his turn with Fastow on Monday.

The short fuse for which Fastow was known at Enron never ignited. He never minimized his own culpability as he repeatedly linked Mr. Lay and Mr. Skilling to a web of lies that promoted Enron as healthy and stable.

The defense contends there was no fraud at Enron, Mr. Skilling and Mr. Lay did nothing wrong, and the company spiraled into bankruptcy proceedings in December 2001 because of negative publicity coupled with loss of market confidence.

Mr. Petrocelli also took the same approach he has with other ex-Enron executives who have pleaded guilty to crimes and testified against Mr. Lay and Mr. Skilling in hopes of getting lenient punishments in return: Look at the liar saying what the government wants to hear.

Unlike most of those others, Fastow did agree up front to serve a decade in prison when he pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy in January 2004. He is to be sentenced in June. The oldest of his two sons will be college-age by the time he is released — “a terrible price for what I’ve done wrong,” he said.

But the government can still prosecute Fastow for 96 criminal counts that are to be dismissed at his sentencing if unhappy with his cooperation.

By the time Mr. Petrocelli finished with him, Fastow looked worn down, often blinking slowly as though trying to remain alert. When he sat in the witness chair during breaks, he stared at the floor with a furrowed brow rather than glance at the defendants or anyone else, looking much older than when he invoked his Fifth Amendment rights before Congress more than four years ago.

“The idea that you would sit in jail for 10 years while Mr. Skilling is a free man, that doesn’t sit well with you, does it?” Mr. Petrocelli demanded.

“Mr. Petrocelli, I know how much devastation going through a situation like this causes to a family. I’m not suggesting that anyone should feel sorry for me or my family. I’m responsible for my actions,” Fastow said.

“But notwithstanding anything you’ve said about my feelings toward Mr. Skilling, I’m sad about any family that has to go through anything like what I put my family through.”

Mr. Skilling, who was CEO for six months until resigning in August 2001, faces 31 counts of fraud, conspiracy, insider trading and lying to auditors. Mr. Lay, who resumed his role as CEO after Mr. Skilling’s abrupt departure, faces seven counts of fraud and conspiracy.

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