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Decade cut off Enron executive's fraud sentence

It is certainly no overstatement to note that, for many Americans, former Enron Corp. CEO Jeffrey Skilling was not an overly sympathetic defendant when he went to trial in a federal court in 2006 for the role he allegedly played in the historic collapse of the energy giant in 2001.

At trial, Skilling faced nearly a score of criminal counts, including criminal charges of conspiracy, insider trading, securities fraud and lying to auditors. He received a federal prison sentence of more than 24 years. Enron, which at its peak was one of the largest companies in the country, ultimately declared bankruptcy.

Notwithstanding Skilling’s central involvement in the rise and subsequent fall of Enron, his case is noteworthy for several propositions. Most important, perhaps, is the important reminder that every defendant facing criminal charges is presumed innocent until proven guilty and has a legal right to be defended against such charges.

This is especially true in a case such as Skilling’s, where, given the magnitude of what was involved and the strong interest, the government brought an overwhelming amount of resources to the task of finding Skilling guilty. Without experienced legal defense counsel available to stand up to such pressure and fight for systemic fairness, any defendant facing such an onslaught of investigatory power would simply be overwhelmed.

In fact, Skilling’s conviction was followed by years of appeals and at least two federal appellate courts -- including the U.S. Supreme Court -- ruling that errors were committed at trial that unfairly prejudiced Skilling. One error was the improper application of a sentencing guideline by the trial judge. Another was prosecutorial error that resulted in one of Skilling’s convictions being flawed.

At a resentencing hearing just last week, Skilling’s original sentence was sharply reduced, with 10 years being cut from his 24-year term. With factors weighing in regarding the time Skilling has already served, including time off for good behavior while incarcerated, he could be released by 2017.

Source: Daily Finance, "Ex-Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling gets 10 years cut from sentence," June 21, 2013

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