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Tyco Trial Under Way

Jury selection begins for former CEO, financial chief

Sep 29, 2003 | Newsday

A year after a $6,000 shower curtain in a Fifth Avenue apartment became a symbol of his extravagance, former Tyco International chief executive Dennis Kozlowski is going on trial for allegedly looting the industrial conglomerate to fund his lavish lifestyle.

Jury selection begins today in the criminal case against Kozlowski and his co-defendant, former Tyco chief financial officer Mark Swartz, in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, on charges of using the corporate till as their personal piggy bank.

The pair are accused of stealing $170 million through unauthorized compensation, forgiven "loans," and company-paid personal expenses, plus an additional $430 million through illegal stock transactions. They face up to 15-to-30 years behind bars if convicted of the enterprise corruption and grand larceny charges. Both men have pleaded not guilty.

About 1,500 potential jurors are expected in Justice Michael Obus' courtroom for an initial screening. The defense clearly would like to avoid New Yorkers who might have post-Enron anger toward corporate executives. Ultimately 12 jurors will be chosen and about a half dozen alternates for a trial expected to take up to four months.

The Manhattan district attorney's office is expected to call 50 to 60 witnesses, including Frank E. Walsh, a former Tyco director and chairman of its compensation committee, sources said. Walsh pleaded guilty to securities fraud for secretly receiving a $20 million finders fee for helping to arrange an acquisition for Tyco.

Among the hundreds of exhibits, most of them financial documents, prosecutors hope to introduce a videotape of a $2 million 40th birthday party Kozlowski threw for his wife, Karen, on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia in 2001, featuring an ice statue of Michelangelo's David spewing vodka from his privates.

Tyco picked up half the cost of the party, and prosecutors want to show the tape to jurors to defeat the notion it was a normal business party, sources said.

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