Enron's Skilling Could Win Early Release From Prison

Former Enron CEO Jeffery Skilling could be released early from federal prison under a reduced sentencing agreement being considered at the Justice Department. Skilling was sentenced to 24 years in prison for his role in the energy trading giant's collapse

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Now former Enron CEO Jeffery Skilling could be released early from federal prison, as part of a reduced sentencing agreement under consideration at the Justice Department. Skilling was sentenced to 24 years in prison for his role in the collapse of the energy trading giant.

NPR's Wade Goodwyn has more.

WADE GOODWYN, BYLINE: There were plenty nods of satisfaction in Houston when former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling was sentenced to more than two decades in prison in 2006. When Enron imploded, it took thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in people's retirements with it.

For many, 24 years in prison for Skilling seemed exactly right. But a lot has changed since then. Wall Street's stunning collapse and Bernie Madoff's brazen thievery cast a new light on Skilling's acts. And then there was the sentence of Enron's Chief Financial Officer Andrew Fastow. Fastow was the mastermind behind the so called off balance sheet partnerships and he stole millions from Enron.

Yet, because he testified against Jeff Skilling and Enron Chairman Kenneth Lay, Fastow served just six years and is now out of prison. For some, that's cast doubt on the fairness of Skilling serving four times Fastow's sentence. Most importantly, on appeal, Skilling's conviction has endured some battering in the federal courts.

In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously nullified Skilling's honest services fraud conviction, ruling there was no bribe or kickback to Skilling. An appeals court subsequently upheld Skilling's convictions on other counts but said his sentence must be reduced.

Wade Goodwyn, NPR News, Dallas.

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