May 08, 2013
Skilling to Reach Deal on Resentencing
Posted by Christine Hurt

Doesn't the fall of Enron (Fall of 2001) seem like a long time ago?  Jeff Skilling, after being sentenced to 24 years in prison in October 2006, has served six years of that sentence, much of that watching the legal wheels turn very slowly.  For those of you keeping score at home, Skilling appealed his conviction to the Fifth Circuit, which affirmed the lower court (Southern District of Texas, Judge Sim Lake) as to the conviction, but vacated the sentence based on a sentence enhancement error.  Skilling then appealed that decision to the Supreme Court, arguing that he should have been granted a request for a change of venue due to pretrial publicity and that the theft-of-honest-services statute underlying part of his conviction was unconstitutionally vague.  In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed as to the theft-of-honest-services statute, not the venue question, and remanded to the Fifth Circuit to determine whether a finding of violation of that statute was necessary for the conspiracy finding.  Because the jury could have found evidence of various conspiracies, the Fifth Circuit affirmed the conviction (again) and remanded for resentencing (again) in 2011. 

Now, in 2013, the WSJ is reporting that the prosecution is likely to reach an agreement with Skilling that Skilling drop all further legal proceedings in return for a reduced sentence of 14-17 years.  On my first reading of this, I didn't see a great benefit.  Yes, 14 is less than 24, but it still means almost 8 more years.  But, Skilling is 59; being freed at 67 is probably a great deal better than 77.  But having the Supreme Court and the Fifth Circuit say that the sentence was wrong seems like at least a 50% discount should be in order, right?  But this report, linked to by the Houston Chronicle, quotes Skilling's attorney Dan Petrocelli as saying that with various other good behavior discounts, Skilling could be released in "four or five years."

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