May 04, 2005
The tale of the tape

Having been caught with the wrong tape during Ken Rice's testimony in the Enron Broadband trial, the prosecution has to explain the error while underscoring the fact that the bit they cared about, in which EBS honcho Rex Shelby made false statements about the company, did exist and was intended to have been shown to investors. To do this, they've trotted out former Enron employee and video collector Beth Stier.

Beth Stier, who made and kept a multitude of videos for Enron and who is now working for Skilling's defense, was called by prosecutors to testify in U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore's court. Videotapes she made have become an issue in the third week of the trial of five former Enron Broadband Services executives.

It was Stier's company, which once depended on Enron for most of its revenue, that taped the January 2000 conference that's key to the government's case.


Stier testified Tuesday she taped the segment with Shelby and was irritated when it wasn't used. She said she inserted it into the final edited version of the conference at the request of Enron's investor relations department.

She said she gave the government the edited tape it used in court and the raw footage that caused the defendants to discover the Shelby segment was added after the fact.

But she said she never gave prosecutors another tape showing only the PowerPoint slides used at the conference. The government received that tape through the defendants.

OK, so an outside expert screwed up. These things happen, you just can't get good help these days, etc etc etc. So far so good.

Prosecutor Cliff Stricklin asked if Stier lied to prosecutors when called to their courthouse offices Sunday night to discuss the tapes.

She said she "hedged" when asked about her relationship with Skilling's lawyer Daniel Petrocelli, whose law firm has paid her more than $150,000 for work related to Enron's library of videotapes she maintains.

Skilling is scheduled to be tried in January and is also accused of lying about the value of the Internet division.

Stier said she was vague with prosecutors. She said she apologized for the "hedging."

"You guys scare me to death. I do not want to lie to you," Stier told Stricklin.

Tom thinks this is the wrong approach by the prosecution.

As noted in this earlier post, the damage from the prosecution's use of the wrong video on Mr. Rice's direct examination could have been limited by the prosecution's forthright admission of its mistake. However, from the report of today's proceedings, the prosecution not only failed to adopt that approach, but inexplicably compounded the damage from its previous error by attempting to shift the blame to a frightened woman on the witness stand before a predominantly male jury. Such a major tactical blunder is a clear sign of a panicked prosecution.

I'm not so sure that I agree with this. One could interpret this exchange as the prosecution reassuring the jury that they have high standards for truth and accuracy, that they expect the same from everyone else, and that they take transgressions seriously. Ms. Stier therefore should have a little fear of God in her for her sins. Not being in the courtroom, of course, I can't judge how the jury may have reacted to all this, but I can see what the prosecution may have been going for, and if I'm right it's sensible enough. We'll know soon enough.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 04, 2005 to Enronarama | TrackBack