May 10, 2011 – By Grant McCool
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NEW YORK (Reuters) - In what has become a familiar ritual over the past two weeks, jurors in the insider trading trial of hedge fund manager Raj Rajaratnam told the judge they needed more time to weigh the evidence.
The 12 jurors, whose jobs range from work in the city's education and transportation systems to suburban parks, said on Tuesday in unison from the jury box, "Yes, Your Honor," when U.S. District Judge Richard Holwell asked them if they planned to continue deliberations in the morning.
The jurors and the judge have engaged in a similar exchange on each of the 11 days they have deliberated in a New York courtroom since April 25.
Tuesday passed without the panel making any requests to review evidence or listen to replays of any of the 46 FBI phone taps at the heart of what prosecutors call the biggest probe of insider trading at hedge funds on record.
The judge ordered the jury to restart deliberations last Wednesday when he replaced a sick juror with an alternate juror. The panel is locked in a room at the back of Holwell's court. They emerge for smoking breaks or to take in the sunshine and sit in the jury box to rehear phone taps and at the end of each day to see the judge.
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Rajaratnam, accused of making an illicit $63.8 million between 2003 and March 2009 in trades involving more than a dozen stocks based on leaks of corporate secrets, is the only defendant out of 26 charged to go on trial so far. Twenty-one have pleaded guilty. One is at large.
Lawyers for the Galleon Group founder argued in the seven-week long evidence phase of the trial that Rajaratnam's trades were guided by analysis and public information.
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Sri Lankan-born Rajaratnam faces up to 25 years in prison if he is convicted on conspiracy and securities fraud charges.
Rajaratnam spent the day ensconced with his lawyers in a conference room near the court. He missed three days of court last week while he was being treated for a foot infection.
While the jury would appear to be taking its time pouring over thousands of government and defense exhibits and their own notebooks, the duration of deliberations is in line with other complex white-collar cases of recent times.
The verdict essentially hinges on whether the government has convinced jurors beyond a reasonable doubt that Rajaratnam traded on material nonpublic information from people who had a duty not to disclose it, and knew it was wrong.
Three former securities traders are scheduled to go on trial on similar charges involving insider trading in the same courthouse on Monday before a different judge, Richard Sullivan.
The case is USA v Raj Rajaratnam et al, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, No. 09-01184.
(Editing by Steve Orlofsky)