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It’s almost like Kenneth L. Lay, the former chairman of Enron Corp., was never convicted of crimes in connection with the downfall of the Houston-based energy company. In May, Lay was convicted of a total of 10 criminal charges: one count of conspiracy to commit securities and wire fraud, two counts of wire fraud, three counts of securities fraud, one count of bank fraud and three counts of making false statements to banks. But on July 5, Lay had a heart attack while on vacation in Aspen and died. On Oct. 17, U.S. District Judge Sim Lake of Houston vacated Lay’s conviction and dismissed the indictment against him. In vacating the conviction, Lake cited an “abatement rule” adopted by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in United States v. Asset, a 1993 opinion. In Asset, the 5th Circuit held that the death of a criminal defendant pending an appeal abates the entire criminal proceeding. The Estate of Kenneth L. Lay filed the motion to vacate the conviction and dismiss the indictment. A defense lawyer for Lay, Houston solo practitioner Michael Ramsey, could not immediately be reached for comment. The U.S. Department of Justice’s press office released a statement by e-mail stating, “Today’s ruling does not change the fact that Mr. Lay was found guilty after a four-month jury trial and a separate bench trial. We will continue to pursue all remedies available for restitution on behalf of the victims of the fraud at Enron.” On Oct. 23, Lake will sentence Lay’s co-defendant, former Enron Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Skilling. In May, a jury found Skilling guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit wire and securities fraud, 12 counts of securities fraud, five counts of making false statements to auditors and one count of insider trading. The jury found Skilling not guilty of nine counts of insider trading.

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