Enron's Jeff Skilling to Get Lesser Sentence

Jeffrey Skilling, sentenced to 24 years in prison in the Enron case, had his conviction affirmed today by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals -- but the Court said the trial judge erred in his sentencing calculations.

The trial judge bumped Skilling four levels for "substantially jeopardizing the safety and soundness of a “financial institution.” The appeals court said that was improper because there was no evidence the Enron Corporation Savings Plan and the Employee Stock Ownership Plan
are "pension plans" or “financial institutions” and any doubt must be resolved in favor of Skilling. It said "We are unprepared to declare every corporate retirement vehicle a “financial institution.”

Skilling must be resentenced. His guidelines now will be level 36 and Criminal History Category 1 or 188 to 235 months. Since the court initially sentenced him to the bottom of the range, I expect it will do the same on resentencing, resulting in Skilling's sentence dropping from 240 months to 188 months. [More...]

The opinion provides another reason defendants should consider exercising their 5th Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. The trial court increased Skilling's guideline level by two for obstruction of justice -- perjury during his SEC testimony. The Court of Appeals upheld the bump. Had Skilling remained silent, he'd be down another two levels and would be looking at a total of 13 years.

In any event, while Skilling will undoubtedly be disheartened that his conviction was upheld, and a 15 year sentence is still overly harsh in my view, there's no denying 15 years is better than 20 years. His lawyer says he will continue to appeal. Skilling is now serving the sentence at FCI Englewood, near Denver, which is now a low security prison.

The 104 page opininion is here. Skilling was convicted of 19 of the 28 charges against him.

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    A Long Time (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by kaleidescope on Tue Jan 06, 2009 at 06:39:56 PM EST
    Fifteen years is a long time to be incarcerated.  Tony Sera did time in the kind of facility Skilling is in.  Like many inmates, Sera said the worst thing about being there was just how stupid and soul destroying the place was.  Skilling will have little privacy and virtually no freedom.  Requests for the simplest things get turned down for the most bogus reasons.

    He paid $60 million on his defense and got this?  He should've gone for a federal public defender and given all his money back to his victims.  Skilling would've gotten basically the same result.

    At Skilling's age, fifteen years is pretty close to a life sentence.  When he gets out (if he lives that long) he'll be in no position to hurt anyone.

    That we have ridiculously long and unfair sentences for things like drug dealing and bank robbery doesn't mean that fifteen years is unjustly lenient just because Skilling was once rich and powerful.

    It's nothing compared to Cheney, Yoo, Addington, Libby and Rove not doing any time at all.

    I also don't agree with you, Jeralyn (5.00 / 2) (#3)
    by esmense on Tue Jan 06, 2009 at 07:42:35 PM EST
    Enron's manipulation of energy prices caused genuine and dire hardship for people in the coastal West. Obscene, manipulated energy price fluctuations robbed school districts of operating funds, put businesses out of business, bankrupted small communities, destroyed jobs, ruined lives, stole life-saving resources from the vulnerable and disabled. The New York and DC based mainstream media didn't give a lot of coverage to that aspect of the scandal -- what was happening to people and small communities in Washington state, for instance. But for many of us who live closer, Skilling's crimes aren't seen as "just" financial. We see them as extreme acts of cruelty and disregard for the life and welfare of others.

    Whatever the law currently says, (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by ThatOneVoter on Tue Jan 06, 2009 at 08:08:15 PM EST
    life in prison would be a fine sentence for a man like Skilling. His predations caused far more harm than almost any robbery could.
    White collar, paper-pushing crimes that affect thousands or even millions of people (car industry) are worse than 2nd degree murder, in my book.

    Try as I might, I simply cannot work up (3.66 / 3) (#5)
    by Anne on Tue Jan 06, 2009 at 08:23:44 PM EST
    a whole lot of sympathy for Skilling; he made his choices and now he's reaping the consequences.  Why should his life be any better than the lives of those who also suffered the consequences of his decisions?  

    I'm not sure he could live long enough to pay his real debt to society, so I guess we will have to settle for 15 years.

    I don't agree with you Jeralyn (none / 0) (#1)
    by hairspray on Tue Jan 06, 2009 at 06:17:20 PM EST
    about his time.  So many of these white collar criminals have no shame about what they have done to the lives of ordinary people.  What I have seen is a kind of hubris that reminds me of Bush/Cheney and those who still think they were really clever. At least he gets 15 years in relative comfort. Is it hard time?  Hardly. More like boring!

    Relative comfort? (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by ytterby on Wed Jan 07, 2009 at 08:23:52 AM EST
    Might I suggest that people who have never been in prison should refrain from making value judgments about how comfortable or easy life is behind the wire. Boring, yes. Comfortable or easy, not on your tintype!

    Have you or any of your close kin (none / 0) (#7)
    by hairspray on Wed Jan 07, 2009 at 12:17:35 PM EST
    been in one of these white collar "detention centers?"  I have not, but did see a PBS special once on one that I believe was in Southern California.  There was a certain amount of regimentation, but an awful lot of free time for reading, using the computer (if allowed) outdoor and indoor sports, gym time, games, etc.  To me that is relative comfort. No?  However, compared to the lavish lifestyle so many of these guys had, I suppose it is hard time.

    Depends On How Much You Value Freedom (none / 0) (#8)
    by squeaky on Wed Jan 07, 2009 at 02:03:38 PM EST
    Exactly... (none / 0) (#9)
    by kdog on Wed Jan 07, 2009 at 02:19:54 PM EST
    there is no comfort without freedom...none.  No matter how many books you have access to or a pc to surf the web.  At least for me...I couldn't live in the most luxurious mansion wif the door was locked from the outside with me in it, it would be torture.

    I've mellowed in my lust for vengeance for the Enron crew since the whole scam went down...society needs to be better than the most heartless and heinous among us.  Time for cooler heads to prevail.


    Freedom is always (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by jondee on Wed Jan 07, 2009 at 03:17:11 PM EST
    a relative term.

    Skilling is certainly freer than the poor souls who have to worry every day about pissing off the Aryan Brotherhood, Latin Kings etc and winding up with a "buck fifty" (stitches) because they didnt have access to the kind of lawyers Skilling does.

    God bless him, but this guy isnt at the top of the list of people my heart goes out to.


    Can't argue with that... (none / 0) (#13)
    by kdog on Thu Jan 08, 2009 at 08:19:06 AM EST
    but is that more free or just more safe?

    I believe in karma...I have too...Skilling will get what he gives whether we lock him up for 25 or 15 or 5.  I wanna be better and I want to be part of a society that is better.  That being said, Skilling and a bank robber should be treated the same...stealing is stealing.  I just err on the side of lesser sentences as opposed to long ones...for what it says about us, not the criminals.


    Yes (none / 0) (#11)
    by ytterby on Thu Jan 08, 2009 at 07:09:52 AM EST
    Three Rivers, TX and El Reno, OK

    By the way, (none / 0) (#12)
    by ytterby on Thu Jan 08, 2009 at 07:14:15 AM EST
    it's my understanding that if have more than 7 years left on your Federal sentence, you must serve the time in a medium or maximum security facility. Only short timers get minimum security camps.

    Maybe Jeralyn can comment on this