Does the Enron CEO Deserve a Get Out of Jail Early Card?

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CNBC is reporting that Jeffrey Skilling, the former CEO of Enron, could secure an early release from prison after serving just six years of his 24-year sentence for fraud. Skilling's lawyers are negotiating a new sentencing deal that would put an end to a long-running legal process that has been going on for more than a decade now. But it's also stirring up mixed emotions.

The former head of the failed energy conglomerate was convicted of conspiracy, fraud, and insider trading back in 2006 and sentenced to spend nearly a quarter-century in prison, due to "enhancements" that increased the seriousness of his crime. (Like "substantially jeopardizing the safety and soundness of a 'financial institution.'") An appeals court would later rule that the 24-year term was excessive, but the re-sentencing process still hasn't gone through yet. Skilling's attorneys were also appealing the guilty verdict, arguing that the Justice Department committed misconduct in its investigation of Enron's bankruptcy—the largest in U.S. history at the time—and the prosecution of its key executives. If he's able to win a lighter sentence through a bargain, Skilling would drop his request for a new trial and his conviction would still stand.

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It's not known how much time would be shaved off his term, but there's already divided opinion on whether he deserves a break or not. Twenty-five years seems like a long-time for a non-violent crime—Skilling wasn't even allowed parole to attend his son's funeralbut it will never be enough for the people who lost their life savings in Enron's obliterated pension funds. The Justice Department is soliciting comment from his victims who might want to speak at the sentencing, but we suspect they'll have a hard time convincing everyone that they're doing the right thing.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.