Honey, I Implicated the Kids!

Location will be a trying problem for Fastow's legal team

He also gained an acquittal for Patrick Hallinan, a California defense attorney accused of running a drug ring, laundering money and obstructing justice. In what could be a preview for Fastow trial watchers, Keker put the government on trial for hounding a respected member of the San Francisco legal community. He ridiculed Hallinan's former associates who testified against him as "Slick Willies" dependent on their federal controllers who gave them reduced sentences.

A California legal journal, The Recorder, quoted Keker's impassioned opening remarks to the jury in the Hallinan trial: "I submit to you that we are all in hell, Pat Hallinan and his family are in hell and the government has sold our birthright to the devil."

Whether a Houston jury -- drawn from a community saturated by a year of Enron horror stories -- will feel much sympathy for Andrew Fastow is another question. Fastow's defense team is already polling local jury consultants about the wisdom of seeking a change of venue for a future trial.

Keker: "The last true liberal" who defended Eldridge Cleaver and prosecuted Ollie North.
Tim Fleck
Keker: "The last true liberal" who defended Eldridge Cleaver and prosecuted Ollie North.

The choice is not open-and-shut. Although Houston is at the epicenter of the Enron blast, it is also considered one of the most tolerant communities in Texas, and the jury pool could be expected to include minorities as well as members of Fastow's Jewish faith. His legal team is concerned enough about the specter of anti-Semitism, a source says, that they are trying not to play up his religious connections. Those ties had been publicized when the Houston Chronicle quoted Rabbi Shaul Osadchey of Congregation Or Ami, a conservative synagogue attended by the Fastows.

"They're worried that it just plays into the hands of a lot of bigots," the source says. "I think they see that as just another problem."

UH Center for Public Policy director Dick Murray says he would be inclined to seek another location for a trial.

"That would be my gut reaction," says Murray. "This is probably going to be a more difficult community than, say, San Antonio, where Enron would have a far lower profile."

Rice University dean of social sciences Bob Steintakes the opposite tack. "It's hard to imagine another venue where Fastow could find a less hostile environment in Texas or anywhere else. It's not absolutely clear that there's a better venue right now or a year and a half from now."

After all, Ken Lay is still being wined, dined and entertained in some of Houston's most respectable homes and at high-profile social events. And don't look for Keker to push for a change of venue to his home turf in energy-ravaged California, where the Enron players would probably draw higher public negatives than Saddam Hussein.

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