Risk Management

Prosecutors Won’t Fight Westar Dismissal

Executives were convicted in 2005 of looting $37 million from the Topeka-based utility.
Dave CookFebruary 21, 2007

Prosecutors won’t ask an appeals court to reconsider its decision to overturn the convictions of two former Westar Energy executives.

Former chairman and chief executive officer David Wittig and former chief strategy officer Douglas Lake had each faced numerous counts, including conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering, and circumvention of internal controls, in connection with the alleged looting of $37 million from the Topeka-based utility.

In 2005, jurors convicted Wittig on 39 counts, reported the Associated Press, and convicted Lake on 30 counts. They were sentenced to prison terms of 18 years and 15 years respectively.

Last month, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit unanimously overturned those convictions, and this week, prosecutors decided not to ask the full appeals court to reconsider that ruling.

In throwing out the convictions, the appeals panel reportedly stated that the core of the government’s case — that Wittig and Lake concealed their personal use of Westar aircraft from securities regulators — “hung by a thin legal thread.”

The judges also stated that the two former executives cannot be retried on the most serious counts, wire fraud and money laundering, according to the AP. Wittig and Lake could still face a retrial on a single count of conspiracy and multiple counts of circumvention of internal controls.

Jim Cross, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Kansas, told the wire service that the possibility of retrying Wittig and Lake is “under consideration.”