Archive for Sunday, February 8, 2004

Ex-Westar executives win delay of trial

Defendants still seek to move case out of Kansas

February 8, 2004


— Two former Westar Energy Inc. executives who are charged with spending millions of dollars in company money will face trial in September instead of March, a federal judge ordered.

U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson on Friday ordered the start of the trial be changed from March 8 to Sept. 7.

Lawyers for David Wittig and Douglas Lake, who waived their constitutional right to a speedy trial, had asked Robinson to postpone the trial until October. Prosecutors wanted a July trial date, but the defense said they would be unavailable due to scheduling conflicts.

Wittig and Lake's lawyers have until March 19 to file a request to have the trial be moved out of state.

Wittig was chief executive officer and Lake was executive vice president and chief strategic officer of Westar, Kansas' largest electric utility.

Wittig, 48, and Lake, 53, face a total of 40 counts on a variety of charges, including falsifying books and records, wire fraud, and engaging in monetary transactions derived from unlawful activity.

Prosecutors allege that from 1998 to 2002 Wittig and Lake conspired to enrich themselves while Westar stock sank from $44 to less than $9 a share and its debt soared to $3.6 billion.

According to a company report released last spring, Wittig and Lake used company planes for personal trips with friends and family and faked flight logs on occasion. They also scheduled unnecessary business meetings to mask personal trips, the report said.

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