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Judge Agrees to Lea Fastow Guilty Plea, Sentencing Stalled

Judge Agrees to Lea Fastow Guilty Plea, Sentencing Stalled

A federal judge in Houston Thursday agreed to accept a guilty plea from former Enron Corp. assistant treasurer Lea Fastow, but the five-month sentence, which was agreed upon by the defense and prosecution, could be altered after the court mandated a pre-sentencing report. Meanwhile, a plea bargain agreement for Andrew Fastow, Enron's ex-CFO, remained tentative.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys apparently had reached a deal on Wednesday in which Lea Fastow would plead guilty to one criminal count in return for five months in federal prison. However, U.S. District Judge David Hittner rejected the agreement because he wanted flexibility to impose a longer sentence. The one count to which Lea Fastow was to plead guilty carries a maximum penalty of 16 months (see Daily GPI, Jan. 8).

Lea Fastow has not been considered central to the federal investigation of Enron, however, she has long been considered key to her husband's prosecution. She had originally been charged with six criminal counts, including filing false tax returns and mail fraud. Jury selection for her trial, now scheduled for Feb. 10, continues. On Thursday, Hittner issued a 36-question survey to 250 prospective jurors to test attitudes toward Enron, taxes and the Fastows.

Another plea bargain agreement, which apparently would send Andrew Fastow to federal prison for 10 years and impose a hefty fine, still was being negotiated Thursday. His agreement has to be approved by U.S. District Judge Kenneth Hoyt.

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