Archive for Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Attorneys say former Westar executive owes $3.2M for trials

May 30, 2007

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— Attorneys for a former Westar Energy executive asked Tuesday to withdraw from the case as their client prepares for a third trial on allegations he tried to loot the utility.

The attorneys said Douglas Lake, of New Canaan, Conn., Westar's former chief strategy officer, owes them more than $3.2 million for their services in two previous trials and appeals. In a request to withdraw filed in U.S. District Court, they said Lake easily could incur $3 million or more in new expenses in another trial.

Lake and David Wittig, Westar's former chief executive, are scheduled for trial in January on charges that include conspiracy and circumventing internal accounting controls. Wittig faces 15 counts and Lake faces 14.

Lake's attorneys blamed the government and Westar for Lake's inability to pay his legal bills, saying "a series of legal maneuvers" had been used to prevent Lake from receiving money Westar is supposed to advance him to cover his expenses.

Lake and Wittig contend the company is obligated to do so under employment agreements they had before leaving Westar late in 2002.

"Regrettably, Mr. Lake has not been able so far to obtain relief from these tactics despite the enormous efforts and resources devoted to the issue," the attorneys wrote in their request to U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson. "They have no reasonable expectation that the heavy legal fees and costs needed to defend Mr. Lake in a third trial will be paid at all, let alone on a timely basis."

Robinson already had planned to have a hearing at 9 a.m. today in the case, with Wittig's and Lake's legal fees one of the issues.

She scheduled a hearing for 10:30 a.m. Tuesday to review the request from Lake's attorneys.

Lake is relying on two firms, Hughes, Hubbard & Reed, of New York, and Hite, Fanning & Honeyman, of Wichita. His lead attorney, Edward Little, of New York, was not available, and neither he nor his firm returned a telephone message.

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