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Fifth Circuit upholds convictions of Enron ex-CEO Skilling, orders new sentence

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit [website] on Tuesday ordered [opinion, PDF] that former Enron [JURIST news archive] Chief Executive Officer Jeff Skilling [JURIST news archive] be resentenced for the convictions that stem from his involvement in the collapse of Enron. The three-judge panel upheld all 19 convictions of conspiracy and fraud, but found that the lower court erred in applying the enhancement sentencing provision as outlined in U.S.S.G § 2F1.1b(8)(A), by ambiguously applying the "financial institution" label to Enron. Writing for the court, Judge Edward Prado stated:

Even if the government has presented a reasonable interpretation of the enhancement, the rule of lenity counsels that we must resolve any doubts in the interpretation of a criminal provision in favor of the defendant. Because both sides have made reasonable arguments as to the meaning of "financial institution," this case falls within the rule, and we resolve any doubts in favor of Skilling. The court therefore erred in applying this enhancement. [citations omitted]
Finding this mistake of law in the sentencing of Skilling, the court remanded the case to the district court for resentencing.

In September 2007, Skilling appealed [JURIST report] his conviction [JURIST report; Chron backgrounder] on 19 counts of conspiracy, insider trading, and securities fraud, claiming errors by prosecutors and the trial judge. Skilling was found guilty of providing shareholders with false and misleading information about the fiscal health of the energy company, and initially sentenced to 292 months in prison, three years supervised release and 45 million dollars in restitution.

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