New York With the jury just minutes from a verdict, a judge declared a mistrial in the grand-larceny case against two former Tyco executives Friday after a juror apparently received an intimidating letter and phone call for supposedly siding with the defense.
Judge Michael Obus aborted the trial after six months and 11 days of tumultuous deliberations, citing pressure on the juror. The woman had been lampooned in the press and vilified on the Internet after nearly bringing the case to a mistrial last week.
A gasp rippled across the courtroom after the judge made the announcement.
"It is certainly a shame that this has to be done at this time," the judge told jurors.
Prosecutors said they would quickly seek a retrial against former Tyco International chief executive L. Dennis Kozlowski and former chief financial officer Mark Swartz, who were accused of looting the company of $600 million and could have gotten up to 30 years in prison.
Kozlowski, 57, and Swartz, 43, appeared ashen-faced after the mistrial was declared. Kozlowski told the AP, "I'm relieved now." He walked out of the courthouse with his wife and left in a sport utility vehicle.
Two police sources and one courthouse source told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity that Juror No. 4 had received a coercive letter and a worrisome telephone call since last weekend. The exact contents of the call were not disclosed, but the letter indicated that the juror was "embarrassing herself," one of the sources said.
The trial exposed what prosecutors portrayed as a culture of greed at the top of Tyco, a conglomerate that makes everything from coat hangers to undersea fiber-optic cable. Kozlowski's $6,000 shower curtains and $2 million toga party made him a symbol of end-of-the-millennium corporate excess.
The jurors were faced with the task of reaching verdicts on 32 charges and deciding whether the defendants committed 68 overt acts as part of the alleged conspiracy. The jurors sent out notes indicating they were hung up on whether prosecutors had to prove the defendants knew they had broken the law.
Juror No. 4 arrived at her New York apartment about 75 minutes after the mistrial was announced. Escorted by court officers, she was whisked past a horde of reporters and cameras without making any comment.