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Texaco executive denies hostility

A former Texaco executive talked about how to "freeze out" a black employee who complained of race discrimination by putting her in a do-nothing job, a federal jury heard Tuesday.

"If we put her in there and gave her nothing and let her play solitaire, she'd (expletive) die," Robert Ulrich said on a secretly recorded tape played in the obstruction of justice trial of Ulrich and another former Texaco executive.

Ulrich, a retired Texaco treasurer, had testified that he had no hostility toward employees who brought a lawsuit against Texaco accusing the company of discriminating in jobs and promotion.

Ulrich, 64, and Richard Lundwall, 56, are accused of obstructing justice by concealing or destroying documents Texaco was supposed to turn over in the lawsuit. The case stems from secret tapes made by Lundwall and turned over to the plaintiffs in the race case. The tapes, which allegedly reveal executives plotting to hide evidence and disparaging black employees, prompted Texaco to settle the case for $176-million in 1996 and resulted in the executives' indictments. They could be sentenced to 10 years in prison if convicted.

In cross-examination, prosecutor Elliott Jacobson picked out instances on tape in which Ulrich seemed to be expressing hostility toward the complainants.

Referring to Ulrich's expletive, Jacobson asked, "That's not the kind of language you used when you went to Sunday Mass?" A character witness for Ulrich was a clergyman who spoke of seeing him at Mass.

"I was venting," Ulrich said.

The tapes were made in 1994 and 1995 by Lundwall, who said he was worried about losing his job in a downsizing. When he was fired, he turned the tapes over to the employees who were suing.

On portions of the tapes that were played for the jury last week, Ulrich is heard saying, "We're going to purge the (expletive) out of these books."

Ulrich maintained Monday that he couldn't remember saying the words heard on the tapes.

During more than two hours of cross-examination Tuesday, Ulrich repeatedly denied he purposely hid or destroyed evidence, despite the taped comments about purging and shredding.

He said he was "a loyal Texaco employee" and a shareholder and answered "sure" when asked if he wanted the plaintiffs to lose the discrimination case, which was filed in 1994, a year before he retired.

Ulrich insisted that taped comments about destroying documents were simply his suggestions about how such papers should be handled in the future.

Ulrich was the final witness and closing arguments were scheduled for today. Lundwall did not take the stand.