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Federal court hears Ebbers appeal of fraud conviction

[JURIST] Lawyers for former WorldCom [MCI/WorldCom website] CEO Bernard Ebbers [JURIST news archive] urged federal appeals court judges Monday to reconsider his 25-year prison sentence [JURIST report], questioning the fairness of the prosecution during trial proceedings. Ebbers was convicted of fraud and conspiracy [JURIST report] in March 2005 in connection with an $11 billion fraud scheme which drove WorldCom into bankruptcy. Ebbers lawyer Reid Weingarten is calling for a new trial, claiming that the previous trial was manipulated against Ebbers because three high level WorldCom executives were barred from testifying on Ebbers' behalf. The three executives agreed to testify that they and Ebbers had no knowledge of the fraud, but were blocked from providing testimony at the trial because they were subjects of a criminal probe. In oral argument Monday, Judge Jose Cabranes of the US Second Circuit Court of Appeals seemed sympathetic to Ebbers, commenting "There are many violent criminals who don't get 25 years in prison. Twenty years does seem an awfully long time". A written decision from the appellate court is expected within the next few months. AP has more.

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