NEW YORK – Former WorldCom Inc. (search) Chief Executive Bernard Ebbers (search) has asked to have his securities fraud trial moved from New York to Mississippi, where the long-distance company was once headquartered.
Reid Weingarten, lead attorney for Ebbers, made the request in papers filed in Manhattan federal court this week, saying "there is little question that the 'center of gravity' of this case is in Mississippi."
Weingarten argued in the request that WorldCom was long based in Mississippi and Ebbers and most of the witnesses likely to testify at the trial still live in that state.
Ebbers is charged with lying to securities regulators and committing fraud in connection with the company's $11 billion accounting scandal. His trial is due to begin in early November.
The former CEO pleaded not guilty in March, shortly after the government reached a cooperation agreement with Scott Sullivan (search), WorldCom's former chief financial officer and Ebbers' one-time top lieutenant.
Sullivan pleaded guilty to three criminal charges related to the fraud as part of the deal with prosecutors to cooperate in the case against Ebbers.
Ebbers faces up to five years in prison if convicted of conspiracy. The counts of securities fraud and making false statements in public filings each carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine.
WorldCom is now known as MCI (MCIP) and is based in Virginia.