After 56 witnesses, hundreds of exhibits, a handful of secretly recorded conversations and countless objections by lawyers on both sides, the final act begins Wednesday in the drama that has dominated this city since late January: the trial of Richard Scrushy, the former CEO of HealthSouth who is accused of masterminding a $2.7 billion accounting fraud.
In closing arguments, prosecutors will remind jurors of the testimony given by five former chief financial officers who claim that they doctored the company’s books because Scrushy insisted they had to. The CFOs have each pleaded guilty to various charges stemming from the fraud and are cooperating in order to receive reduced sentences.
In response, Scrushy’s lawyers will return to the theme they have been sounding since their client was indicted 18 months ago: that the CFOs cooked the books on their own, without his knowledge. As evidence of his innocence, they argue, there’s not one document, e-mail or handwritten note indicating that Scrushy knew of the fraud.
Rather than accept the punishment they deserve, the cooperators hatched a plot to blame the entire fraud on the top man, diminishing their own responsibility for the crime, Scrushy’s lawyers say.