Former Enron Corp. CEO Jeffrey Skilling on Friday asked the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans to dismiss the 19 convictions that sent him to prison last year for 24 years and four months.

Skilling's legal team argued in a 237-page appeal that there were errors by the prosecution and by presiding U.S. District Judge Sim Lake in the Houston trial that ended in May 2006 (see NGI, May 29, 2006). Enron's founder and former Chairman Kenneth Lay also was convicted in the trial; he died of a heart attack less than two months later (see NGI, July 10, 2006).

In an interview with reporters in New Orleans, Skilling's lead trial lawyer Daniel Petrocelli said the prosecution had been "in search of crimes knowing this wasn't a clear-cut case, and in particular, that Jeff Skilling hadn't done anything wrong."

Skilling's appeal is based on several points. Among other things, his defense team argued:

Following his conviction, Skilling filed an appeal, but it was denied without explanation by Lake (see NGI, July 31, 2006). Skilling then appealed Lake's ruling and asked to remain free on bond, but his request was again denied by the appeals court.

In his two-page ruling ordering Skilling to jail last year, Fifth U.S. Circuit Court Judge Patrick E. Higginbotham suggested there were "serious frailties" on several charges against Skilling (see NGI, Dec. 18, 2006). However, he further noted late last year that "Skilling raises no substantial question that is likely to result in the reversal of his convictions on all of the charged counts." The only way the court could have allowed Skilling to remain free pending his appeal was for him to convince the court that the appeal likely would result in all of the convictions being overturned.

The prosecution had no comment on the appeal.

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