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Ebbers: Of Motels & Men

NEW YORK -- Is Bernie Ebbers really just a good-hearted, former basketball coach and country bumpkin who knew very little about accounting -- or is he an outstanding actor?

It looks as if that could be what the jury's decision will come down to, in light of new testimony by Ebbers himself today at his trial for fraud here in U.S District Court.

Lead defense attorney Reid Weingarten surprised some observers by calling the defendant, Ebbers, the former WorldCom CEO, to the witness stand today. (WorldCom has since gone through bankruptcy restructuring and is now MCI Inc..)

The line of questioning and Ebbers's testimony painted a picture of a hard-working former jock and basketball coach, a man who had struggled in college, worked many odd jobs, adopted children, and ultimately started building his telecom empire while living in a trailer and managing the first motel he had bought with $650,000 in debt.

But the real nut of his defense appears to be that while running WorldCom as CEO in the period of 2000-2002 when the fraud occurred, Ebbers said he was not involved in the day-to-day accounting of the company, nor was he alerted by former WorldCom CFO Scott Sullivan of any of the accounting problems that later led to charges of fraud.Not a Bean Counter

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