Skilling lands in NYPD custody after a night of barhopping

Indicted ex-CEO of Enron accused of drunkenness

he says he was harassed

April 10, 2004|By Sean Gardiner and James Toedtman | Sean Gardiner and James Toedtman,NEWSDAY

NEW YORK - Jeffrey K. Skilling should know better than to mess around with New York City.

Under indictment and free on $5 million bond, the former Enron chief executive officer took his wife to one of Manhattan's fanciest neighborhoods for drinks at a lounge that protects customers' privacy and wound up in police custody early yesterday.

Skilling's lawyer said that Skilling had been harassed by patrons, police and the press.

But according to the Police Department, Skilling was picked up early yesterday morning after they had received several 911 calls complaining that the accused Enron mastermind was intoxicated. The callers said that Skilling was accusing passers-by and restaurant patrons of being FBI agents and had pulled at their clothes in search of hidden microphones.

Emergency medical service workers took Skilling to New York Presbyterian Hospital for observation. Hospital officials said he was released later yesterday.

Skilling first attracted attention during his night on the town at the Vudu Lounge, according to lounge manager Eric Funk. The restaurant is a favorite Yankee baseball player and celebrity hideaway known for protecting patrons' privacy.

"Our practice is to live and let live," Funk said. But he acknowledged that his staff reported Skilling was "bothering people."

After leaving the Vudu Lounge, police said, Skilling walked down the block to the American Trash lounge and again provoked patrons.

Skilling's lawyer, Bruce Hiler, offered a different account. He denied that Skilling and his wife visited either restaurant and said that Skilling asked cabbies to call police because two men had been harassing him about Enron.

"This is an outrageous example of how pre-trial prejudice generated by the government and others have put Mr. Skilling and his family in danger," Hiler said in a statement.

A Police Department source disputed Hiler's version of events and said that police responding to the 911 calls found Skilling uncooperative and concluded that he was an "emotionally disturbed person" in need of emergency assistance. An EMS crew decided to transport him to Presbyterian Hospital.

Skilling and his wife live in Houston, though she was reportedly seen recently in the Upper East Side neighborhood where the incident occurred.

He has denied his involvement in the elaborate schemes that lead to the collapse and bankruptcy two years ago of Enron, once the nation's seventh-largest corporation. No date for trial in Houston has been set.

Newsday is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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