USA TODAY - Disgraced former Enron chief executive Jeffrey Skilling's legal fight for a shorter prison term could end in victory next month.
Government prosecutors filed a federal court agreement Wednesday that would cut as much as 10 years off the 24-year federal prison term Skilling received for his 2006 conviction on conspiracy, securities fraud and insider-trading charges involving the now-bankrupt energy giant he helped lead.
Prosecutors agreed not to oppose crediting Skilling for six weeks of home confinement served before he entered prison. They also agreed to defer to prison officials if Skilling seeks participation in a drug-treatment program. Those concessions, plus earlier court decisions, could potentially lead to a 2017 or 2018 release, according to court records and prison rules.
The agreement filed in Houston faces final approval by U.S. District Court Judge Sim Lake, who court filings show was involved in settlement discussions between prosecutors and Skilling's defense team. Lake on Wednesday scheduled a June 21 re-sentencing hearing.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Stokes wrote that the agreement "provides for an appropriate sentencing" in light of a 2011 appeals court ruling that said the original prison term imposed in 2006 had been too long under federal court guidelines.
In return for the deal, Skilling, 59, agreed to waive his rights to all further legal appeals of his sentencing and conviction, including his pending bid for a new trial. In his Monday signing of the agreement, Skilling also agreed that more than $40 million of his forfeited assets should be distributed among the many financial victims of Enron's collapse.
The deal effectively ends the long-running legal battle waged by Skilling and provides "finality to victims and the public," wrote Stokes, who added that the agreement would "significantly expedite the distribution of restitution to victims of the Enron crimes."
"The proposed agreement brings certainty and finality to a long, painful process," lead defense attorney Daniel Petrocelli said Wednesday. "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."
Originally sentenced in 2006, Skilling has spent more than six years in custody. He's currently incarcerated at the low-security Englewood Federal Correctional Institution, about 15 miles southwest of Denver.
Enron collapsed in a market-shaking 2001 bankruptcy amid revelations that the company had grossly overstated its earnings. The financial implosion victimized tens of thousands of employees and investors.
Andrew Fastow, the company's former chief financial officer, was released from prison in 2011 after serving six years on his guilty plea to charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and securities fraud.
Kenneth Lay, Enron's former chairman, died of a heart attack in 2006, one month after his career ended with a criminal conviction for lying to investors about the company's finances.