Jailed Skilling assails case, seeks new trial
Imprisoned former Enron Chief Executive Jeffrey K. Skilling asked Friday for a new trial, saying the Justice Department used incorrect legal theories and “coercive and abusive tactics” to win a conviction, including threatening witnesses.
Skilling was sentenced in October to more than 24 years in prison for his role in the collapse of Enron Corp. He was convicted along with founder Kenneth L. Lay in May 2006, on 19 counts of fraud, conspiracy, insider trading and lying to auditors.
In December, Skilling reported to a federal prison in Minnesota. Lay died in July 2006, and his convictions were vacated.
Skilling is the highest-ranking executive to be punished for the accounting tricks and shady deals that led to the loss of thousands of jobs, more than $60 billion in Enron stock value and more than $2 billion in employee pension plans after the company imploded in 2001.
“Profound, inherent weaknesses in the government’s case -- not just gaps in its evidentiary proof, but doubts about its basic theories of criminality -- motivated the government to resort to novel and incorrect legal theories, demand truncated and unfair trial procedures, and use coercive and abusive tactics,” Skilling’s lead lawyer, Daniel Petrocelli, said in the appeal filed Friday with the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.
In the sharply worded, 237-page filing, Petrocelli says Skilling was not a villain but tried to save the company by offering to invest tens of millions of dollars to keep Enron operating.
The filing says the legal blunders that led to Skilling’s conviction included the government’s erroneous theory of fraud and jury instructions, the trial court’s decision not to move the proceedings out of Houston and prosecutorial misconduct.
The filing says the government obstructed Skilling’s access to witnesses and documents, coerced and threatened witnesses, secured unlawful plea agreements and destroyed documents, among other violations.
It says Skilling’s 24-year sentence is four times as long as that of any other former Enron executive, two to three times as long as those of comparable white-collar defendants and six years longer than the average federal sentence for murder.