February 24, 2005
No early sping for Lea Fastow

Sorry, Lea. No early release for you.

U.S. District Judge David Hittner said he could find no legal grounds in her lawyer's motion to have her one-year sentence vacated and replaced with the seven months she's served for not reporting personal income from an Enron side deal on her 2000 tax return.

Her attorney, Mike DeGeurin, argued that her sentence, which began July 12, is twice what people normally serve for the misdemeanor tax crime.

DeGeurin also said Fastow has been in a maximum-security detention center in downtown Houston, while most tax offenders are in more amenable minimum-security institutions.

"I take full responsibility for this effort to bring Lea's sentence in line with others across the nation in similar circumstances. This is not something Lea requested," DeGeurin said.

"On the other hand, the hope to resume her life with her family that this effort fostered has been dashed, leaving a feeling of great emptiness. But I am sure Lea and her family will weather this too without complaint."

The judge, who refused to even suggest a minimum-security facility for Lea Fastow though he knew her lawyers requested it and most tax offenders serve in such facilities, did mention the harshness of her prison term. The prison bureau tries to accommodate judicial recommendations but does not guarantee it will follow them.

"While the court recognizes Fastow ... is serving her sentence under conditions that may be more harsh as compared to other first-time tax offenders, designation of offenders for place of imprisonment is subject to the complete discretion of the Bureau of Prisons," the judge wrote.

Prosecutors didn't object entirely to DeGeurin's motion to set Lea Fastow free, saying through him that a release now would still be more than the five-month sentence the government initially had sought.

The judge had indicated he would seriously consider the motion, but in 10 pages said he lacked jurisdiction since the government didn't say Fastow had provided substantial cooperation, the Bureau of Prisons didn't ask for her release and the judge declined to find she had ineffective counsel, the three ways she could be released.

Sounds fine to me. Nice try by her attorneys, but that's the way it goes.

Meanwhile, we'll have to wait till next year for the trial of the Big Three.

U.S. District Judge Sim Lake ordered today that jury selection for ex-Chairman Ken Lay, ex-CEO Jeff Skilling begin Jan. 17, 2006. He'd been considering starting the trial as as early as this summer.

Judge Lake said he pushed the case into next year to accommodate the trial schedules of the multiple top-flight lawyers involved. "All these good lawyers are fully employed," the judge joked. "I appreciate you giving me the time of day."

Lay, Skilling and former top accountant Rick Causey all recently asked for a December trial date, saying there is no time before then when Causey's two main lawyers can be fully prepared or don't have other trials. The judge said he chose to skip to January to avoid holiday travel problems.

Ah, well. Who wants to pay attention to a summer trial, right? Now we can enjoy our trashy books and Star Wars movies with a clear conscience.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 24, 2005 to Enronarama | TrackBack