Victims concerned over possible Enron deal

CEO Jeffrey Skilling originally sentenced to 24 years in prison

By Robert Arnold - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - Victims of the collapse of energy giant Enron are expressing concern over a possible deal to reduce former Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Skilling's prison sentence.

Skilling was sentenced to 24 years in prison in 2006 for his role in the demise of the company. Skilling has been in prison for just over six years and Local 2 Investigates has learned his attorneys are in closed-door negotiations with government prosecutors to possibly reduce his sentence. 

"It's not right, it's just not fair," former Enron employee Charleen Carlos said.

Carlos said she lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in her 401k when Enron went belly up.

"He should not enjoy his life while other people are suffering from what he did," said Carlos.

However, Local 2 legal analyst Brian Wice said these negotiations are not entirely unexpected since a federal appeals court ruled in 2009 that part of Skilling's sentence was too harsh.

"What's happened in these cases have been convictions, draconian verdicts and ultimately reversals or reductions on appeal," said Wice.

Wice said the negotiations may be the government's way of avoiding a drawn-out resentencing hearing, especially since Skilling is raising the specter of prosecutorial misconduct.

"If there's one thing the Department of Justice doesn't want, doesn't need and doesn't relish at this point is uncovering any misconduct or misfeasance that may have occurred those many years ago," said Wice.

No one yet knows how much of a reduction Skilling may get, but energy analyst Barbara Shook said she does not believe it will be a large reduction in his is sentence.

"Twenty-four years was considered a bit excessive by legal authorities, even at that time," said Shook. "I've seen previous speculation that it might be reduced to something in the 14 to 15 year range."

Sherron Watkins helped expose Enron's misdealing and was a key government witness during the trials. Watkins said she does not believe a reduction in sentence is tantamount to a denial of justice.

"He is a man of means who can keep nickel-and-diming the government with appeals," Watkins told Local 2 during a phone conversation. "If he gets out tomorrow, he's still paid a huge price with the deaths of his parents and his son while he was in prison, he has been held accountable for his leadership failures and he is still a felon. Was justice served? Yes."

Any deal reached between the government and Skilling would still have to be approved by US District Judge Sim Lake, who originally sentenced Skilling.

Watkins said victims are not voiceless in this process. Watkins said victims were notified of these negotiations to give them a two week window to lodge any concerns they may have over a possible reduction in Skilling's sentence.

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