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Pretrial Ruling in Adelphia Fraud Case

Feb 5, 2004 | BLOOMBERG NEWS

A federal judge in the fraud trial of John J. Rigas and his sons declined yesterday to rule out the use by prosecutors of accusations that the family defrauded the Adelphia Communications Corporation before the period covered in the indictment.

Judge Leonard B. Sand of United States District Court in New York said the government might discuss previous wrongdoing in its opening statement only if it related to practices that continued through the period of the crimes charged: 1999 through 2002.

In his rulings, Judge Sand said he would decide case by case during the trial what specific evidence of preindictment wrongdoing could be introduced.

"We're certainly going to argue that most if not all of these practices at Adelphia were longstanding practices," an assistant United States attorney, Christopher J. Clark, told Judge Sand. "It is impossible to put this crime in context without going into events outside the indictment."

The ruling clears away one of the last disputed issues before the trial, which is scheduled to begin Feb. 23 and last as long as four months. Adelphia, a cable television operator, filed for bankruptcy in 2002 after seven consecutive years of losses.

Mr. Rigas, two of his sons and a former Adelphia executive face an indictment accusing them of using the company as a "personal piggy bank," hiding $2.3 billion in debt and looting company funds. They have pleaded not guilty.

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