Execs acquitted in AOL-PurchasePro trial

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ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- Two former midlevel executives at America Online were acquitted Tuesday on all counts of charges that they conspired with a now-defunct Las Vegas software firm to inflate its revenue with secret side deals and backdated contracts.

A third defendant, a senior executive at the Las Vegas company, also was found not guilty on all counts.

The verdicts brought to a close one of the longest trials in the history of the federal courthouse in Alexandria. The trial lasted more than three months, but the jury took only two full days of deliberations to reach its verdict.

All three defendants wept with relief when the verdicts were read.

John Tuli, a former vice president in AOL's NetBusiness unit; Kent Wakeford, a former executive director at AOL's business affairs unit; and Christopher Benyo, a former senior vice president of marketing at PurchasePro, had been accused of deceiving PurchasePro stockholders about the company's revenue in the first quarter of 2001 as the dot-com economy collapsed.

The alleged ringleader of the scheme, PurchasePro founder Charles "Junior" Johnson, is scheduled to go on trial in August.

Several PurchasePro executives had struck plea deals and testified at the trial.

AOL is the online access unit of Time Warner Inc.
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