Former Enron Corp. Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Skilling, who spearheaded the fraud that destroyed the world’s largest energy trader, will leave prison in 2017 after his sentence was reduced to 14 years from 24.
U.S. District Judge Sim Lake III in Houston today approved the terms of the deal made between prosecutors and Skilling, who appeared at the hearing dressed in prison-issued green clothes and wearing handcuffs that were removed in court.
In exchange for a shorter sentence, Skilling, 59, agreed to forfeit $45 million, drop his bid for a new trial and end litigation over his 2006 conviction and sentence. The former CEO’s prison term was already set to be reduced by nine years, thanks to a 2011 appellate-court ruling that sentencing guidelines were incorrectly applied in his case.
Before he sentenced Skilling to the minimum sentence allowed under the deal, Lake praised Skilling’s charitable works before and after he went to prison, which the judge said he learned about from more than 200 letters he received on Skilling’s behalf.
“You’ve made a positive impact on his life and many others, and I applaud you for that effort,” Lake told Skilling, referring to a letter of support he received from a fellow inmate of Skilling’s.
Skilling tutored inmates in Spanish after learning the language himself in jail, taught business classes and set up job fairs to teach resume writing and interviewing skills to inmates, Daniel Petrocelli, Skilling’s lawyer, told Lake. He also reads a newspaper to a blind inmate daily, Petrocelli said.
“He still has a long way to go,” before being released, Petrocelli told the judge. “He will at least have the opportunity in the last part of his life so he can play a meaningful role” in his family and his community.
Long sentences are necessary to reflect the seriousness of the crime and the level of harm inflicted, Lake said.
“Mr. Skilling repeatedly lied to investors including Enron’s own employees,” and profited enormously through selling stock on inside information others didn’t have, Lake said. “The court has concluded a sentence of 14 years or 168 months adequately addresses all the sentencing factors. The court is not persuaded a longer sentence is necessary.”