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Enron's Jeff Skilling in court to ask for early prison release

June 21, 2013|By Shan Li
  • Former Enron CEO Jeff Skilling, left, wants an early release from his 24-year prison sentence.
Former Enron CEO Jeff Skilling, left, wants an early release from his 24-year… (David J. Phillip / Associated…)

Former Enron Corp. Chief Executive Jeffrey K. Skilling, who is serving a 24-year prison sentence for his part in the collapse of the energy giant, is going before a federal judge in Houston on Friday to ask for an early release.

Skilling, who has served six years, was convicted in 2006 on 19 counts including insider trading, conspiracy and securities fraud.

Under a proposed sentencing agreement submitted this week, Skilling could see his sentence sliced by more than 10 years and be released as early as 2017.

News of a possible deal first came out in April, when the Justice Department posted a notice on its website notifying victims of the Enron fraud that prosecutors may enter "into a sentencing agrement" with Skilling.

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Details of the deal, revealed a few weeks later, reportedly included Skilling giving up his rights to appeal and agreeing to let his convictions stand. He would also give up claims to the $40 million he was ordered to forfeit.

Any changes must be approved by U.S. District Judge Sim Lake in Houston, who presided over the original trial. In 2009, a federal appeals court ruled the 24 years imposed by Lake was too harsh, but resentencing has been delayed as Skilling's attorneys tangled in other courts on a broader appeal.

If Lake approves the agreement, it would close another chapter in the saga of Enron, which imploded in 2001 in what was then the largest corporate bankruptcy. Thousands of workers lost their jobs and their retirement accounts plunged in value.

Some legal scholars have speculated that prosecutors felt pressure to make a deal after facing allegations of misconduct surrounding the specially formed Enron Task Force and other negative publicity. Skilling's attorneys were planning to seek a new trial based on that alleged misconduct.

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Follow Shan Li on Twitter @ShanLi

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