Enron chief says founder is innocent

By Kristen Hays The Associated Press

HOUSTON – Former Enron Corp. Chief Executive Jeffrey Skilling spoke up yesterday for company founder Kenneth Lay in his third day on the witness stand in the pair’s fraud and conspiracy trial, saying they were a “good team” that committed no crimes.

Even though most counts pending against him and Lay allege crimes that occurred at different times before Enron crashed in scandal in December 2001, an overarching conspiracy count alleges they participated in a sprawling effort to portray Enron as strong when they knew accounting tricks hid bad news and weak ventures.

Skilling appeared confident, alternating between earnestness and occasional annoyance, and told jurors that neither he nor Lay perpetuated such a ruse.

“Did you and Ken Lay ever discuss doing something you knew to be forbidden by law?” Skilling’s lawyer, Daniel Petrocelli, asked yesterday.

“No,” Skilling said. Later, he added, “It is completely untrue,” and “I was aware of no illegal activity occurring at Enron Corporation.”

The ex-CEO countered dramatic prosecution testimony given in February from David Delainey, once a Skilling favorite. Delainey ran Enron’s trading arm, Enron North America, until Skilling asked him to take over the company’s retail energy unit, Enron Energy Services, in February 2001. Delainey pleaded guilty to insider trading in October 2003.