DAVID TWIDDY

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) ¿ Four years after two former utility company executives were last tried, federal prosecutors are trying to get their case back on track.

They've asked U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson to set a third trial for David Wittig, former chief executive of Topeka-based Westar Energy Inc., and his chief lieutenant, Douglas Lake between Dec. 8 and March 29. Robinson will hold a hearing Monday to consider the request.

Wittig and Lake, who were forced out of the Westar in late 2002, are charged with conspiracy and circumvention of internal controls.

Those are the remaining charges in a case that once included wire fraud and money laundering. Prosecutors claim the two used a variety of schemes to boost their compensation at Westar and then attempted to hide their actions from company officials and regulators.

The men have denied wrongdoing and said the utility's board of directors knew what they were doing.

An attorney for Lake declined to comment Tuesday on the third trial while an attorneys for Wittig didn't immediately return a phone call for comment.

Their first trial, in 2004, ended in a hung jury. They were convicted a year later but the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver threw out those convictions, saying prosecutors didn't provide enough evidence of wire fraud and money laundering. The appeals court banned prosecutors from bringing those counts back for retrial.

Prosecutors decided to retry the men on the conspiracy and circumvention charges, and a third trial was scheduled for September 2008.

The trial was put on hold after Wittig's and Lake's attorneys argued the issues raised in the remaining counts were the same as those raised in the counts blocked by the appeals court. They said a new trial would therefore violate a constitutional ban on trying people twice for the same crime.

The appeals court rejected that argument last summer, although it expressed some skepticism about the government's case and said the defendants might prevail on some constitutional arguments after a retrial.

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