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Enron's Jeffrey Skilling May See Sentence Reduced

May 8, 2013

Former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling could have his more than 24-year prison sentence reduced by as many as 10 years under a deal announced Wednesday by the Justice Department.

The agreement with Skilling's lawyers, which still needs the approval of a federal judge, would reduce the former Enron chief's sentence to between 14 and 17 1/2 years.

"Today's agreement will put an end to the legal battles surrounding this case," Peter Carr, a Justice Department spokesman, said in a statement. "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."

Skilling was sentenced in 2006 for his role in the collapse of the energy trading giant, a collapse that cost thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in people's retirement. NPR's Wade Goodwyn reported last month on the agreement that was under consideration at the time:

"For many, 24 years in prison for Skilling seemed exactly right. But a lot has changed since then. Wall Street's stunning collapse and Bernie Madoff's brazen thievery cast a new light on Skilling's acts. And then there was the sentence of Enron's Chief Financial Officer Andrew Fastow. Fastow was the mastermind behind the so-called off-balance-sheet partnerships, and he stole millions from Enron.

"Yet because he testified against Jeff Skilling and Enron Chairman Kenneth Lay, Fastow served just six years and is now out of prison. For some, that's cast doubt on the fairness of Skilling's serving four times Fastow's sentence. Most important, on appeal, Skilling's conviction has endured some battering in the federal courts.

"In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously nullified Skilling's honest services fraud conviction, ruling there was no bribe or kickback to Skilling. An appeals court subsequently upheld Skilling's convictions on other counts but said his sentence must be reduced."

The Associated Press reports that U.S. District Judge Sim Lake is to hold a June 21 hearing in Houston to make a final decision on the sentence.

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