Oklahoma County District Court judge nixes delay in Bernie Ebbers hearing

Thursday, October 30th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- A prosecution request to delay the preliminary hearing of former WorldCom chief executive Bernie Ebbers on criminal securities charges was denied Thursday by an Oklahoma judge.

The Oklahoma attorney general sought to postpone the preliminary hearing until perhaps late March, or until the end of the federal trial of former chief financial officer Scott Sullivan.

Defense attorney Reid Weingarten objected to the delay, saying his client was innocent of the Oklahoma charges and wanted a preliminary hearing as soon as possible.

"We should not have to wait a year" to dispose of the Oklahoma charges, Weingarten said.

Judge James H. Paddleford ruled the case would be subject to normal scheduling procedures, meaning it could occur in November or December.

Thomas Bates, assistant attorney general, said the preliminary hearing could last three to four weeks.

Paddleford said he would set a date for the hearing after talking with other Oklahoma County judges.

In requesting a March hearing date, Bates said the attorney general's office wanted to coordinate its case with the trial of Sullivan in New York.

Earlier this month, Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson agreed with a request by James B. Comey, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, to delay the Oklahoma court appearances four witnesses in the Sullivan case who are charged both in New York and in Oklahoma.

Sullivan and Ebbers have been charged in Oklahoma with defrauding Oklahoma investors by understating expenses to inflate reported profits. They are both free on $50,000 bail.

Edmondson filed similar charges against the company and the four other employees whose Oklahoma court appearances are pending.

It was the first criminal charges brought in any jurisdiction against Ebbers and the company.

Edmondson agreed to delay court appearances in Oklahoma for Buford Yates, David Myers, Betty Vinson and Troy Normand until after they testify in the federal case against Sullivan.