Court: Skilling Must Report to Jail Immediately

Go directly to jail, do not pass Go, and forget about collecting $200. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals took one day after yesterday's stay order to deliver that message to Enron's Jeffrey Skilling today.

Judge Patrick Higginbotham of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals wrote in his two-page order that "Skilling raises no substantial question that is likely to result in the reversal of his convictions on all of the charged counts."

As a result, Higginbotham denied Skilling's request for bail pending his appeal and vacated an earlier order staying his prison report date.

Skilling must now report to the low security level federal prison at Waseca, MN to begin serving his 24 year sentence. Ouch. But the Judge gave Skilling a glimmer of hope for his appeal:

Although Higginbotham's order notes "serious frailties" in Skilling's convictions, it says those problems fail to raise a "substantial question" likely to result in the overturning of all Skilling's convictions, as would be required to grant bail during appeal.

What might those serious frailties be?

Skilling, 53, is expected to argue on appeal that his trial should have been moved from Houston to avoid negative publicity and that many witnesses who could have supported his defense were intimidated by the government's refusal to grant them immunity and feared risking prosecution if they testified.

I think the change of venue argument is stronger than the forced immunity argument, but given the length of jury selection, I don't think it will be successful.

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