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Last Updated: Friday, 9 July 2004, 16:12 GMT 17:12 UK
US papers react to Enron charges
Ken Lay being led into court in handcuffs
The case against Ken Lay has taken years to put together
US newspapers reacted strongly to the appearance in court of former Enron chairman Kenneth Lay on Thursday.

He denied 11 criminal charges relating to the collapse of the energy company.

The Houston Chronicle, which is based in the same city as Enron, said that the buck should stop with Mr Lay.

It continued that while Mr Lay "enjoys the presumption of innocence", he "deserves to be held to account".

It goes on to point out that "for countless Enron employees, pensioners and investors, tragedy struck in 2001, when the schemes of Enron insiders unravelled and the company's true financial condition become known."

Mr Lay has said that he was unaware that the firm had concealed millions of dollars in debts, blaming chief financial officer Andrew Fastow for the 2001 bankruptcy.

'Ignorance and incompetence'

Should jurors choose to believe Lay, he will be court-certified as an idiot
Los Angeles Times

The Los Angeles Times is scathing in its assessment, saying that "history will be unkind" whatever the outcome of the trial.

Either Mr Lay will be found guilty of fraud, the newspaper explains, or "not guilty by reason of staggering ignorance and incompetence".

It concludes that: "Should jurors choose to believe Lay, he will be court-certified as an idiot".

The New York Times predicts the forthcoming court battle will be "an intriguing clash of competing narratives".

"The defence will portray him as a colossal failure, as an incompetent, out-of-touch manager who... was duped by his unscrupulous chief financial officer."

The prosecution, meanwhile, will be "more generous in describing Mr Lay's intelligence and abilities. He needs to worry about their chances of making that case".

Location switch

The Chicago Tribune focuses on the complexity of the case and how that may help the defence.

"Nothing about Enron is simple," it says. "He may yet walk free, especially if he can move his trial out of Houston, the headquarters city where Enron's failure did so much damage."

For The Miami Herald "the tendrils of the saga stretch a lot further than Texas". The paper said it prompted " the stunning re-examination of American life and commerce that continues today".

This was a sentiment echoed by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which went on to point out that despite shifts in the corporate world, very little had changed for the consumer.

It finished with the stark view that "if found guilty, Lay will be punished. But either way, the public pays".

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