Skilling might get a sentence reduction

But don’t expect him to get out of jail anytime soon.

Attorneys for former Enron CEO Jeff Skilling and the Department of Justice are discussing an agreement to reduce his prison time and possibly avert a drawn-out court battle.

Those involved didn’t disclose Thursday how much his 24-year sentence might be shortened through a settlement, though appeals court rulings in 2009 and 2010 made some reduction likely.

“I don’t suspect that that sentence is going to let Skilling out of jail anytime soon,” said Bill Mateja, former senior counsel to the U.S. attorney general. “I would suspect that there’s going to be some reduction, but certainly he’s going to spend a significant time in prison.”

Skilling, who has served six years, was convicted in 2006 of conspiracy, fraud and insider trading for his role in the collapse of the Houston energy company.


The Justice Department issued a notice to victims on Thursday about the talks with Skilling’s attorneys and invited those affected by the case to file comments about a possible sentencing deal.

“The Department of Justice is considering entering into a sentencing agreement with the defendant in this matter,” said the notice on the Justice Department’s website. “Such a sentencing agreement could restrict the parties and the court from recommending, arguing for, or imposing certain sentences or conditions of confinement. It could also restrict the parties from challenging certain issues on appeal, including the sentence ultimately imposed by the court at a future sentencing hearing.”

The notice describes potential victims as “thousands of former Enron employees, owners of Enron securities and other persons who were harmed as a result of the crimes for which the defendant will be sentenced.”

A Justice Department official said Thursday evening that the government’s goal “is to ensure that Mr. Skilling be appropriately punished for his crimes, and that victims finally receive the restitution they deserve.”

U.S. District Judge Sim Lake held a private conference call with attorneys from both sides last month about the potential deal. Skilling has been waiting to be re-sentenced after a federal appeals panel in 2009 ruled his sentencing was too harsh.

“Because of the complexity of the case and its age, I think it’s probable both parties felt that it was best to come up with a negotiated compromise,” said Houston lawyer Philip Hilder, a former federal prosecutor. “A full-blown sentencing hearing would require a lot of resources and would be time-consuming and difficult because of the age of the case.”

Maybe you can blame sequestration for that. Skilling asked for a new trial last year, claiming to have “new evidence” that would exonerate him. His conviction was upheld in 2011 after a SCOTUS review of his case, but the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered him to be re-sentenced in 2009 as part of the original ruling that upheld his conviction. These things do take time, don’t they? Skilling is the last of the Enron defendants still entwined in the justice system. We’ll see what happens.

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