[JURIST] A federal judge on Monday granted former Enron [corporate website; JURIST news archive] vice president Christopher Calger's request to withdraw his July 2005 guilty plea [US DOJ press release] to a charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The case against Calger was based on the same legal theory that was rejected [JURIST report] in August 2006 by the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit [official website]. In that case, the convictions of four former Merrill Lynch [corporate website] executives were overturned when the court found that the executives had acted for the benefit of Enron and not to benefit themselves personally. Calger withdrew his plea under the parallel assertion that the government's theory of fraud relating to the deprivation of honest services is flawed, as he did not personally profit.
Calger faced up to five years in prison under his guilty plea; the government still has the right to re-prosecute the issue. Calger is the second individual to withdraw a guilty plea in the Enron scandal; former Arthur Andersen [corporate website] accountant David Duncan withdrew a plea in December 2005 after the US Supreme Court overturned Anderson's obstruction of justice conviction [JURIST report]. Bloomberg has more. The Houston Chronicle has additional coverage.