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Federal judge sets date for Enron ex-CEO resentencing, rules for victim testimony

[JURIST] A judge in the US District Court for the Southern District of Texas [official website] issued an order [text, PDF] Friday setting a July 30 date for the resentencing of former Enron [JURIST news archive] Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Skilling [JURIST news archive] and setting up a system for victims to share their accounts with the court. Skilling was convicted in 2006 on 19 counts of conspiracy, insider trading, and securities fraud relating to the collapse of Enron. He appealed the conviction to the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit [court website], which upheld his conviction [JURIST report] in January. Because of the wide-ranging impact of Skilling's crimes, Lake's order requires victims who wish to speak at the sentencing to submit a written summary of their statements in order to condense the opinions that victims and their representatives seek to present to the court during the sentencing hearing. In his order, Judge Sim Lake wrote:

Potential crime victims in the case include thousands of former Enron employees, owners of Enron securities, and other persons who were harmed as a result of the crimes for which the defendant will be resentenced. The court concludes that allowing each victim to speak at the defendant's resentencing hearing could unduly prolong and complicate the resentencing of the defendant. Moreover, if a large number of victims intend to attend the hearing, it will be necessary for the court to make arrangements for adequate seating. ...

All persons who believe that they are victims of crimes committed by Mr. Skilling shall notify the court by May 29, 2009, if they wish to be heard at the resentencing hearing, and will briefly explain why they are a crime victim and summarize what they wish to say at the hearing. ... If it appears that multiple victims wish to make the same points, the court may limit the number of victims who speak in order not to unduly complicate or prolong the sentencing hearing.
In September 2007, Skilling appealed [JURIST report] his 2006 conviction [Houston Chronicle backgrounder] to the Fifth Circuit, 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. Skilling's appeal was based on a previous Fifth Circuit ruling [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] that overturned convictions for other Enron executives based on "honest services theft" because they had acted in Enron's best interest by direction and did not profit from their actions. The Fifth Circuit ruled in January that Skilling's case differed from these previous rulings because "no one at Enron sanctioned Skilling’s improper conduct" and because Skilling's compensation structure was aligned with Enron's earnings.

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