Federal prosecutors have agreed to a sentencing deal with Jeffrey Skilling that will shave time from the 24-year prison term the former Enron Corp. chief executive is serving for his role in the energy giant’s collapse.
Skilling has been in federal custody since December 2006 following his conviction in Houston federal district court on charges that included conspiracy, securities fraud and insider trading. His lawyers fought vigorously to overturn the conviction and sentence in one of the country’s most high-profile white-collar crime cases.
In 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit for a second time upheld Skilling’s conviction. The court, however, again ordered resentencing. Skilling’s lawyers had been preparing to push for a second trial based on newly discovered evidence. The defense attorneys faced a May 28 deadline to file their papers.
The deal between Skilling and the prosecutors, however, would end additional litigation. Skilling’s new sentencing date is scheduled for June 21 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. He faces between 14 years and 17.5 years in prison under the agreement. Prosecutors announced the deal on Wednesday.
Prosecutors and defense lawyers said neither side would appeal a prison sentence that falls within that range. Both sides reserved the right to challenge any term imposed by U.S. District Judge Sim Lake outside those boundaries.
The government’s legal team, including Patrick Stokes, deputy chief of the Justice Department’s fraud section, and trial attorney Robert Heberle will take no position on a specific sentence, according to the court papers filed on Wednesday.
Prosecutors said they made a number of considerations in agreeing to a reduced sentence and an end to the litigation. DOJ "has invested extraordinary resources" into investigation, trial and post-trial litigation, prosecutors said.
The government also said that it can’t touch more than $40 million — restitution for victims — while Skilling continues to challenge his conviction and sentence. "Congress has expressly declared that the need to provide restitution to victims of the offense is a relevant consideration in determining the sentence to be imposed," prosecutors wrote.
The deal "will put an end to the legal battles surrounding this case," said Peter Carr, a spokesman for the Justice Department. "Mr. Skilling will no longer be permitted to challenge his conviction for one of the most notorious frauds in American history, and victims of his crime will finally receive the more than $40 million in restitution they are owed."
Carr said the agreement "ensures that Mr. Skilling will be appropriately punished for his crimes and that victims will finally receive the restitution they deserve."
"The proposed agreement brings certainty and finality to a long painful process," O’Melveny & Myers litigation partner Daniel Petrocelli, a lawyer for Skilling, said in an email. "Although the recommended sentence for Jeff would still be more than double any other Enron defendant, all of whom have long been out of prison, Jeff will at least have the chance to get back a meaningful part of his life."
Mike Scarcella can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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