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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Former Enron CEO Skilling Takes Stand

HOUSTON -- Former Enron chief executive Jeffrey Skilling took the witness stand in his own defense on Monday, proclaiming his innocence and vowing he would fight criminal charges against him "till the day I die."

Skilling, 52, and former Enron CEO and chairman Ken Lay stand accused of lying to investors and analysts to hide the dismal financial health of Enron, which collapsed in December 2001 in what was then the largest-ever U.S. bankruptcy.

"It's not in my nature not to fight something like this. The charges against me are wrong," a visibly nervous Skilling testified. "I will fight those charges till the day I die."

Legal experts have said Skilling's testimony at the trial will be a crucial factor in whether he is convicted of the 28 counts of conspiracy, fraud and insider trading that prosecutors have lodged against him.

Under questioning from his lawyer, Dan Petrocelli, Skilling talked about his love for the company he helped build from a sleepy Houston pipeline company into an international trading giant and his decision to resign as chief executive less than six months after taking up the post.

"I was exhausted ... my head just wasn't in it anymore," he said.

Lay, Skilling's co-defendant in the case, returned after Skilling's departure to the CEO position he had previously held for 15 years. He is expected to testify later in the trial, in which he faces six charges of conspiracy and fraud.

Both men have pleaded not guilty and face decades in prison if convicted in the trial that began at the end of January.