Former Enron CEO Skilling's sentence cut to 14 years
By Kristen Hays and Anna Driver
HOUSTON (Reuters) - A federal judge slashed 10 years off of his prison sentence of former Enron Corp Chief Executive Jeffrey Skilling on Friday, a decision that could set him free as early as 2017.
U.S. District Judge Simeon Lake reduced his term to 14 years from 24 years, accepting a deal struck between prosecutors and Skilling's lawyers that will end years of appeals.
Under the deal, more than $40 million of Skilling's fortune, which has been frozen since his conviction in 2006, will be distributed to victims of Enron's collapse.
"This is not an easy decision," Lake told the hearing before he acknowledged both the gravity of Skilling's crimes and his charitable works in Houston, and in prison, where he reads to a blind inmate and teaches English and Spanish. He has also held a job fair for inmates about to be released.
In May 2006, a jury had convicted Skilling of 19 counts of conspiracy, securities fraud, insider trading and lying to auditors for his role in maintaining a facade of success as Enron's energy business crumbled.
Enron founder Kenneth Lay also was found guilty of multiple counts of conspiracy and fraud. He died of heart failure six weeks after the trial ended, prompting Lake to throw out the conviction.
"We are relieved that we can now see the light burning at the end of the tunnel," Daniel Petrocelli, Skilling's attorney told reporters after the hearing.
Skilling, who looks much as he did when last seen in public in 2006 save a graying beard, thinner hair and eyeglasses, appeared relieved. His wife, former Enron corporate secretary Rebecca Carter, as well as his brother, Mark Skilling, and sister, Sue Skilling, all wept when Lake announced the new sentence. Continued...