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.
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