Skilling to take stand in Enron case

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Jeffrey Skilling, the man accused of being the brain behind the Enron conspiracy, should take the stand to defend himself in the next few days.

The chief executive, who left the company just before it imploded in an extraordinary accounting scandal, is likely to be called by defence lawyers this week. Mr Skilling is charged with 28 criminal counts including securities fraud and conspiracy.

His lead lawyer, Daniel Petrocelli, confirms that he will call his client very soon in a case that has gripped corporate America.

Mr Skilling has always attributed Enron's collapse to a so-called "run on the bank" - a dramatic loss of investor confidence fuelled by negative publicity.

The government prosecution rested last week, with not every observer convinced they had done enough to secure a conviction. Lawyers who have attended the trial say prosecutors did not present any obvious "gotcha" documents proving that Mr Skilling knew there was fraud at Enron.

Kenneth Lay, the former chairman and one-time friend of President George Bush, faces six counts of fraud and conspiracy. Mr Lay is expected to take the stand directly after Mr Skilling - probably in the second week of April.

Mr Skilling's brother, a television weatherman in Chicago, yesterday defended his sibling. Tom Skilling told a news agency his brother was a man with "a self-depreciating sense of humour". This is not a picture that has emerged from public appearances by Mr Skilling, who is 52.

On a conference call in 2001, he famously dismissed an investor who expressed scepticism about the company's prospects with one word: "Asshole".