US reaches deal to reduce Skilling sentence
The prison sentence of disgraced former Enron chief executive Jeff Skilling will be cut by as much as 10 years under a deal announced Wednesday by federal criminal prosecutors.
Currently in prison on a 24 year sentence for for securities fraud, false statements and other charges, Skilling will see his jail term reduced to between 14 years and 17 and a half years under the agreement that will end his long battle against conviction.
Judge Sim Lake, who presided over Skilling's trial in 2006, set his new sentencing for June 21, 2013.
Under the deal set Wednesday, Skilling agreed to allow $40 million of his forfeited assets to be distributed to victims of his crimes.
He also agreed to stop appealing his conviction and sentence, drawing a close to a legal struggle that began with the spectacular collapse of the high-flying Texas energy and trading conglomerate in 2001.
The government has invested "extraordinary resources" in the Skilling case, the agreement revealed Wednesday said. "In the absence of this agreement, the parties anticipate substantial ongoing litigation."
Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr said the agreement "ensures that Mr. Skilling will be appropriately punished for his crimes and that victims will finally receive the restitution they deserve."
Enron victims will have a chance to speak at Skilling's June sentencing hearing, said his attorney Daniel Petrocelli.
"The proposed agreement brings certainty and finality to a long painful process," Petrocelli said.
"Although the recommended sentence for Jeff would still be more than double any other Enron defendant, all of whom have long been out of prison, Jeff will at least have the chance to get back a meaningful part of his life."
Thousands of people lost their jobs and life savings when Enron collapsed. The ensuing scandal undermined faith in corporate America and fed a massive stock market sell-off.
Skilling and Enron founder Ken Lay were convicted of massive fraud in 2006, with Skilling sentenced to 24 years and three months in federal prison. Lay died of a heart attack before he was sentenced.
The Enron case became a symbol of a period of US corporate scandals in the early 2000s that also included firms like Worldcom and Tyco. In Enron's case, Skilling was convicted for his role in in hiding company losses and hyping the value of Enron stock while selling his own shares.
Enron also engaged in considerable accounting fraud involving elaborate off-balance sheet transactions.
A reduction in Skilling's sentence was required by a 2009 US Court of Appeals ruling that determined his original sentence was excessive.
In April 2012 the US Supreme Court turned down an appeal by Skilling to review his conviction on conspiracy charges.