Despite urging by the prosecution team, U.S. District Judge David Hittner in Houston Wednesday rejected a plea agreement for Lea Fastow, the wife of former Enron CFO Andrew Fastow. Lea Fastow withdrew her guilty plea after Hittner, who would not tell her what his sentence would be, insisted that she decide whether to take the sentence or not.
Lea Fastow now is scheduled for a trial this summer in Brownsville, TX, and jury selection is slated to begin in June. The former Enron assistant treasurer pleaded guilty in January to filing a false tax return (see Daily GPI, Jan. 15).
Under a complex agreement set up in January, Lea Fastow agreed to serve five months in prison and five months in home confinement. The arrangement between prosecutors and the defense was part of a deal that led to Andrew Fastow pleading guilty in exchange for 10 years in prison and cooperating with the ongoing investigation. The government believes Andrew Fastow’s testimony could help the investigation, especially with its indictment of ex-CEO Jeffrey Skilling.
Lea Fastow’s plea agreement was considered to be in the low end of the range of the 10-month to 16-month sentence suggested by the probation department’s pre-sentencing report for Hittner. The report also left open a suggestion for a sentence of longer than 16 months.
Lea Fastow’s lawyer, Mike DeGeurin filed an eight-page sentencing memorandum on Tuesday that included two color photos of her with her children. One photo depicts her on the beach with her children; another photo shows her sitting on a couch, smiling at a child reading a book.
The memorandum states that the people who know her best “have uniformly described her as devoted to family, thoughtful, kind, unselfish and, since a small child, she has demonstrated an unusual empathy for others. All agree she has great character instilled by her father, Jack Weingarten, who taught her modesty and care for those less fortunate. She is a mother first.” Her father started the Weingarten supermarkets.
The memorandum indicates that because she knew she had to return to work following her husband’s indictment, “she returned to school full time and completed the requisite courses at the University of Houston to qualify for admittance in nursing school and did so maintaining a remarkable 4.0 grade average. She was last week accepted to the University of Texas.”
Part of the memorandum states, “Those with a false image of Lea will never have the benefit of all the information that has been brought to this court and may never understand that Lea is just a person, a mom, a modest daughter of Jack Weingarten who cares more for others than herself.”
Whether Hittner’s decision will have any effect on Andrew Fastow’s plea arrangement is unclear. With no options left for Lea Fastow, Andrew Fastow’s agreement to cooperate with the prosecution could be in jeopardy. He has pleaded guilty, but his 10-year prison deal was in exchange for cooperating. The couple, however, is not expected to be able to regain any portion of the $23.8 million fine they relinquished as part of their guilty pleas.
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