Ebbers juror says data led to conviction

His admission that he saw documents called clincher

March 17, 2005|By BLOOMBERG NEWS

NEW YORK - WorldCom Inc. documents showing the company's declining finances and the testimony of former chief executive Bernard J. Ebbers that he saw them are what sealed his conviction, not star witness Scott D. Sullivan, a juror said yesterday.

Zina Gregory, 40, who was juror No. 8 at Ebbers' fraud trial, said Sullivan, WorldCom's former finance chief, "had his own agenda," so she avoided putting too much stock in his account of financial wrongdoing at the long-distance company. "I didn't care for him," Gregory said. "Everything he said was too laid out for me, too scripted."

She said the WorldCom documents introduced into evidence by prosecutors, "the reports that Mr. Ebbers himself said he had received," established his guilt.

The heart of the government's case was the testimony from Sullivan, the only witness to directly implicate Ebbers in the $11 billion fraud. Gregory said the jury instead focused on revenue and budget reports charting WorldCom's woes. They convinced her that Ebbers must have known that company accountants were cooking the books, she said.

"I find it hard to believe that someone who started a company and built it up like he did would suddenly pull away and let other people run it," she said.

Ebbers, 63, was convicted Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Manhattan on all nine counts of conspiracy, securities fraud and making false filings to the Securities and Exchange Commission to hide costs and inflate revenue to camouflage WorldCom's slowing growth after a decline in the telecommunications market in 2000. He is to be sentenced June 13.

Jurors delivered their verdict after more than 40 hours of deliberations spread over eight days.

Ebbers' testimony didn't play a large role in convicting him, said Gregory, a Bronx resident who is an administrator at the Bank of New York. She said the jury was glad that he gave his side of the story.

"It was a good thing he was there, only because we had an opportunity to hear from him personally," she said. "It was a good thing, because I had something to go on outside of Mr. Sullivan's testimony.

"I truly believe he wanted to save his company," Gregory said. "We'd probably be very surprised about how many companies do the exact same thing, and then the economy turns around and they are able to correct the changes that they do."

She said the lengthy deliberations weren't caused by conflict among the jurors. When they were split on whether to convict Ebbers on the conspiracy charge, they skipped it and moved on to the false-filing counts, Gregory said.

Jurors were very emotional during deliberations, Gregory said. "Some actually broke down and cried. For me, I'm a Christian. I did tell everyone that they should go home and pray," she said.

"God is the final judge. We have to be accountable."

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