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Lawyers Closer To Clearing Lay's Name

Enron founder Kenneth Lay smiles as he heads to the courthouse for the start of closing arguments in his fraud and conspiracy trial Monday, May 15, 2006 in Houston. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
AP Photo/Pat Sullivan
The judge who presided over Enron Corp. founder Kenneth Lay's two criminal trials has paved the way for his lawyers to legally clear his name.

In a ruling issued last week and made public Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Sim Lake approved a request from Lay's lawyers to substitute the late company founder's estate for Lay himself in court proceedings so the entity can act on his behalf.

That step needed to be taken before Lay's attorneys can formally ask Lake to erase Lay's May convictions on charges stemming from crimes committed within Enron's walls before the company flamed out in scandal in December 2001.

Lake is expected wipe Lay's record clean because the former corporate titan died July 5 of heart disease before he had been sentenced or launched an appeal.

Lay, 64, was convicted May 25 of six counts of conspiracy and fraud for repeatedly lying to employees and investors about Enron's financial health before the company crashed into bankruptcy protection. Lake also convicted him of one count of bank fraud and three counts of lying to banks in a separate, non-jury trial related to his personal banking.

Lay's co-defendant in the jury trial, former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling, was convicted of 19 of 28 counts of fraud, conspiracy, insider trading and lying to auditors. Skilling, who plans to appeal, faces decades in prison and is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 23.

Lay died while vacationing in Aspen, Colo., with his wife, Linda. An autopsy showed his coronary arteries were more than 75 percent clogged.