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Enron ex-CEO's prison sentence reduced

Judge Simeon Lake of the US District Court for the Southern District of Texas [official website] on Friday reduced [DOJ press release] the prison sentence of former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling [JURIST news archives] from more than 24 years in prison to 14 years. As a term of the deal reached between Skilling and the government, more than $40 million of Skilling's fortune, which has been frozen since his conviction in 2006, will be distributed to victims of Enron's collapse. Lead defense attorney Daniel Petrocelli anticipates that with time already served and other reductions, including a standard 15 percent sentence reduction for good behavior and a one-year reduction for completing an alcohol-abuse treatment program, that Skilling could be released in four years. Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman [official website] issued stated that Skilling's sentence reduction still "imposes significant punishment."

A jury convicted Skilling [JURIST report] in May 2006 on 19 counts of conspiracy, securities fraud, insider trading and lying to auditors for his role in maintaining a face of success as Enron's energy business crumbled. In 2009 a federal appeals court ruled that Lake had improperly applied a sentencing guideline, which meant a reduction in Skilling's original prison sentence. In February 2009 the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit denied a petition for an en banc rehearing for Skilling after a three-judge panel upheld [JURIST reports] his previous convictions and ordered him to be resentenced due to error in the lower court. Skilling's appeal was based on a previous Fifth Circuit ruling [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. In 2010 the US Supreme Court ruled that the "honest services" doctrine is not unconstitutionally vague [JURIST report] under a limited construction of the statute, and the district court adequately "detected and diffused" juror prejudiced in the pre-trial publicity of Skilling. From 2009 until Friday's ruling, Skilling's resentencing attempts were delayed as he sought to overturn his convictions.

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