Okla. Tries New Tack to Delay Ebbers Case

From Reuters

Oklahoma's attorney general said Thursday that he had filed a motion to drop criminal charges against former WorldCom Inc. Chief Executive Bernard J. Ebbers but probably would refile a complaint in March.

Oklahoma Atty. Gen. Drew Edmondson said he sought to withdraw the complaint charging Ebbers with fraud to avoid interfering with a federal prosecution of the company's former chief financial officer, Scott D. Sullivan.

The state had charged WorldCom, now known as MCI, Ebbers and five other former executives with violating state securities laws by knowingly giving false information to investors.

The Oklahoma case marked the first criminal charges against Ebbers, who pleaded not guilty. He and the other former executives face as many as 10 years in prison if convicted.

A court Wednesday had rejected Edmondson's request to delay Ebbers' Dec. 1 preliminary hearing until after the federal trial of Sullivan, which is set for February. Sullivan also is a defendant in Oklahoma's case.

"We have an agreement with United States Atty. James Comey that we will not call any witnesses in our case until those people have testified in Scott Sullivan's federal trial," Edmondson said.

"I intend to honor that agreement. This dismissal is purely a strategic move, and I have every intention of refiling these charges early next year."

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