Former Enron Corp. CEO Jeffrey Skilling, scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 23, last week asked a Houston judge to allow him to remain free on bond while he appeals his conviction on 19 criminal charges (see NGI, May 29). Also last week, Enron prosecutors indicated they may appeal the six-year prison term given to ex-CFO Andrew Fastow following public protests (see NGI, Oct. 2).
When he is sentenced in Houston by U.S. District Judge Sim Lake, Skilling likely faces 20-30 years in federal prison. Under federal sentencing guidelines, Skilling will have to serve at least 85% of his sentence.
According to the court filing (Case No. H-04-25) by his lawyers last week, Skilling should be allowed to remain free on bond at least until late November. The filing noted Skilling is “not a flight risk or a threat to the community,” and “self-surrender is extremely common in white-collar cases…” The filing noted, “Allowing Skilling to self-report will spare him from an overly harsh security classification in prison, prevent him from having to wind his way through the prison system before finally being assigned to a facility, and allow him to spend the holidays with his family before serving an extended prison sentence.”
The filing requested Skilling be allowed to surrender to the Bureau of Prisons on Jan. 2, or no earlier than Nov. 27.
In the request, Skilling’s lawyers also requested he be allowed to remain free pending an appeal. Allowing a person convicted on criminal counts to remain free pending an appeal requires Skilling’s lawyers to demonstrate that “substantial issues” likely will result in a reversal of the conviction. The court filing signaled three issues will be the focus of Skilling’s appeal: alleged bias because the trial was held in Houston, where Enron is based; discovery and witness access issues related to the defense not being able to convince some former Enron executives to testify for Skilling; and a jury instruction that allowed jurors to consider whether Skilling knowingly turned a blind eye to criminal activity at Enron.
Earlier this month, Skilling paid a $385 fine to resolve a misdemeanor public-intoxication charge following his arrest around 1:45 a.m. Sept. 9 in Dallas. Skilling was briefly detained in a Dallas city jail and ticketed. He pleaded guilty to the Class C misdemeanor charge and did not make a court appearance. Skilling’s arrest did not violate his $5 million bond, but he was ordered to increase his visits with alcohol treatment and mental health counselors.
In related news, the government has been feeling the heat after failing to object to the six-year prison term handed down to Fastow. The former CFO had agreed to a 10-year prison term following a plea deal in early 2004. He was instead given a shorter term by U.S. District Judge Kenneth Hoyt, which surprised court observers and apparently dismayed many former Enron employees.
In a filing last week, prosecutors asked Hoyt for immediate access to a sealed transcript of a Sept. 25 conference held in Hoyt’s chambers with Fastow’s lawyers and members of the Enron Task Force. The conference was held the day before Fastow was sentenced.
“The government is currently assessing whether to file a notice of appeal of the sentence imposed on Mr. Fastow, and it cannot make that determination without a copy of the transcript of the pre-sentencing hearing,” the filing noted. Although prosecutors are aware of what occurred in the meeting, filing for a transcript copy is the normal process for an appeal. The government has until Oct. 26 to file a sentencing appeal.
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