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    Tobacco Firms Request Postponement in Racketeering Trial

    September date could be pushed back until early next year.

    CHICAGO -- The tobacco companies facing a federal racketeering suit have asked that the start of the trial, currently set for late September, be pushed back until early next year, reported CBS Marketwatch.

    In a motion filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, defendants including Altria and Reynolds American asked Judge Gladys Kessler to delay the opening of the trial "for reasons of judicial economy and sound case management."

    At issue is a separate appeals court hearing on the "disgorgement" portion of the case under which the government is seeking to make the industry pay out some $280 billion in allegedly ill-gotten gains.

    That hearing could greatly impact the examination of witnesses as well as the admission of evidence.

    It is set for November and under the current schedule, "it now appears likely that the trail will proceed significantly toward completion before the appeal is resolved, contrary to the expressed hope of this court and that of the joint defendants."

    The companies suggested that an extension of less than four months, to Jan. 10, "will not cause undue hardship to the parties."

    The government is opposing any further delay in the case, which dates back more than five years.

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