New York -- Jury selection in the federal fraud trial of four former Adelphia Communications Corp. executives began Monday, with 18 of the needed 50-plus jurors qualified.
Former Adelphia cofounder and chairman John Rigas, his sons -- former chief financial officer Timothy and former executive vice president of operations Michael -- and former VP and assistant treasurer Michael Mulcahey appeared in U.S. District Court here Monday.
All four are charged with 24 counts of mail fraud, wire fraud, securities fraud and conspiracy, with the Rigases accused by the government of looting Adelphia like it was their "personal piggy bank."
The Rigases and Mulcahey have all pleaded innocent.
About 25 potential jurors were questioned Monday by U.S. District Court Judge Leonard Sand. About 45 were summoned to the courthouse for Monday’s questioning, with another 45 selected to go through the process Tuesday.
The goal is to select about 50 people, who will be winnowed down to 12 jurors and six alternates, hopefully by Friday. Sand said in court Monday that if the process goes as planned, the trial -- expected to last 12 weeks -- could begin March 1.
Potential jurors were quizzed on some of their answers to a 15-page questionnaire sent to 600 people last month. Among those that qualified was a woman who serves as an assistant to the president of a $1 billion hedge fund in Manhattan (it did not invest in Adelphia to her knowledge). Lawyers for the Rigases objected to the fact that the woman said financial-news channel CNBC was on in her office all day.
It is expected that the trial will not be held on Fridays, and that jurors will be allowed to return to work on that day.
Michael Rigas’ attorney, Andrew Levander, said the court was "asking for trouble" if it would allow a jury member to return to his or her office, expecting CNBC not to air a story on the Rigases.
"It’s one thing to tell your juror to turn off the TV or not to read the paper," Levander said. "But we have no control over CNBC."
Judge Sand denied the motion.