Ebbers Jury Has Question on Supplemental Charges

A judge told jurors in the trial of former WorldCom chief Bernard Ebbers (search) on Thursday they did not have to consider certain supplemental charges by prosecutors in order to convict him.

The instruction came after jurors, on their fourth day of deliberations, sent a note asking whether they needed to agree with the supplemental charges to find Ebbers guilty of seven counts of making false regulatory filings.

The supplemental charges include that the fraud at WorldCom Inc. (search) caused more than $100 million of losses and had more than 50 victims. Investigators have put the accounting scandal at $11 billion.

Click here to read the indictment against Bernard Ebbers (FindLaw pdf)

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan added the charges to their indictment of Ebbers because of uncertainty that arose from a Supreme Court decision limiting the power of judges to impose harsh sentences.

The high court has since ruled that judges may not add to criminal sentences based on facts not proved to a jury — such as the amount of loss in a financial crime.

In any event, U.S. District Judge Barbara Jones told the Ebbers jury to ignore the supplemental charges in the indictment.

"The supplemental allegations are irrelevant," she said. "You need not make any findings with respect to those allegations."

Ebbers lawyer Reid Weingarten moved for a mistrial, arguing the supplemental charges could prejudice the jury. Jones quickly denied the motion.

Besides the seven counts of false filings to the Securities and Exchange Commission (search), Ebbers is charged with fraud and conspiracy. The charges carry a combined 85 years in prison.

Jurors went home Wednesday afternoon without delivering a verdict — and asked the judge that they be served lunch from a Domino's Pizza Inc. store on Thursday, even offering to pay for the pies themselves.

"We appreciate our cafeteria lunches," the jury said in a note, "but we would appreciate a change."

The judge said she would grant the request.