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Judge Calls Mistrial In Tyco Case

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

after six months and 11 days of tumultuous deliberations, citing intense 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, and several jurors looked chagrined.

"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.

The new management of Tyco International vowed that it will pursue civil litigation against former officers, regardless of the outcome of any new criminal trial.

"We have confidence in the criminal justice system. Once the criminal cases are resolved, we will diligently pursue our own civil actions against Messrs. Kozlowski and Swartz, as well as other former officials," Tyco spokesman David Polk said in a prepared statement issued in response to Friday's ruling.

Polk identified the other officials as former chief corporate counsel Mark Belnick and former company director Frank Walsh, whom Tyco has sued, alleging the two received $55 million in undisclosed pay that should have been approved by the company's board.

"I've been doing this forty years -- if I piled up all the experiences top to bottom, I ain't seen nothing like this yet," defense attorney Charles Stillman told CBS News Correspondent Jim Axelrod after the mistrial was declared.

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 black 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 William Johnson told Axelrod the jury was not totally deadlocked, and without a mistrial, the two Tyco execs would have been convicted on at least some of the charges.

"We literally were within minutes" of reaching a verdict on what would have been the 12th day of deliberations, juror Peter McEntegart told CNN. "That's difficult for me right now." He said it would have been a split verdict — guilty on some counts, not guilty on others.

Juror No. 4 arrived at her Manhattan 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.

The woman became the subject of intense media scrutiny last week, soon after the jurors sent out notes that said they were at each other's throats and that one juror was refusing to deliberate with an open mind. They said the atmosphere in the jury room had turned "poisonous."

"I think this case was doomed from the moment that one of the jurors was identified in the New York papers," said CBS News legal analyst Andrew Cohen.

"The judge became convinced over the course of the week that one of the jurors was under outside pressure to reach some kind of a verdict and you just cannot have that in a criminal trial," Cohen added.

Some news organizations reported last weekend that the juror — a 79-year-old former teacher who earned a law degree late in life — had made an "OK" sign toward the defense as she passed by the lawyers. The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post used her name. The Post also ran a front-page sketch of her giving the "OK" and called her "Ms. Trial" and "the batty blueblood."

Defense lawyers repeatedly asked for a mistrial, saying the juror — an apparent holdout for acquittal — was being pressured by the media and possibly by other jurors to change her vote.

The judge rejected the requests time and again, but on Friday cited "efforts to pressure the jury from the outside" in granting the mistrial. He also complained that Juror No. 4's name was published "in violation of our conventions."

The judge stressed that the juror committed no wrongdoing. "There has been no finding that this juror has done anything wrong," Obus said. "A great disservice may have been done to her and her family."

Because she has not stepped forward publicly, the AP is not identifying her.

In a statement, the district attorney's office called the mistrial "unfortunate" and said it would seek a retrial at the earliest opportunity.

Kozlowski's lawyer, Stephen Kaufman, said all sides would return to court May 7 to set a date. Kaufman, speaking for himself and Swartz attorney Stillman, said, "We're disappointed because of the events that occurred outside the courtroom that this case did not reach a verdict."

The trial came amid a spate of major cases involving corporate corruption. During the trial, federal prosecutors brought charges against former executives of WorldCom and Enron, and Martha Stewart was convicted in a stock scandal just blocks away.

Prosecutors said Tyco picked up all or part of the tab for a long list of extravagances, among them: a birthday bacchanal for Kozlowski's wife on a Mediterranean island; $30,000 worth of opera glasses; and $15 million worth of furnishings that included a $15,000 umbrella holder, a $2,200 gilt metal trash basket and a $6,000 shower curtain.

The government accused Kozlowski and Swartz of stealing $170 million by hiding unauthorized bonuses and secretly forgiving loans to themselves. They also were accused of stealing an additional $430 million by pumping up Tyco stock by lying about the company's finances.

The defense argued that the former had earned every dime and that the board of directors and auditors knew about the compensation and never objected.

The defendants were charged with grand larceny, falsifying business records, conspiracy and other business-law violations.

The case at times seemed more like an episode of "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" than a criminal trial.

The jury was given a videotaped tour of an $18 million, Tyco-owned apartment on Fifth Avenue where Kozlowski lived while in the city. The flat included paintings by Monet and Renoir.

The jurors were also shown an edited videotape of his wife Karen's 40th birthday on the Italian island of Sardinia. It featured a performance by singer Jimmy Buffett and scantily clad young men and women dancing and serving, with men dressed as Roman soldiers and women as Roman maidens.

Kozlowski still faces charges from 2002, when he was accused of evading more than $1 million in New York state sales tax on $13 million worth of art hanging on the walls of the Fifth Avenue apartment.