Defiant To The End Essay

Length: 5 pages Sources: 5 Subject: Business - Law Type: Essay Paper: #26278675 Related Topics: Correctional Officers, Legal Brief, Legal Briefs, Jurisprudence
Excerpt from Essay :

Skilling v. USA

The seminal court case that was Skilling v. The United States was an affirmation and confirmation that Jeffrey Skilling was rightly convicted and that he was not being railroaded. Much of this report will focus on the case itself but the aftermath will also be discussed. In the end, the case centered on the idea that Jeff Skilling asserted that he was wrong convicted, was not given a fair trial and that the entire proceeding was thus invalid as a result. The United States Supreme Court ruled against Skilling in all respects except one major one and he got a decade knocked off of his sentence as a result. This report will discuss the reason for that in detail. While guilty deserved to be punished for their crimes, they should be punished consistently with the intent, letter and actual verbiage of the law.

Case Summary

The analysis and summary of the case is as follows. The defendant (Skilling) was convicted in a federal district court of conspiracy to commit "honest services" wire fraud under 18 United States Code 371, 1343 and 1346. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the federal court's decision. The United States Supreme Court then granted certiorari and agreed to hear the case. The facts of the case are pretty basic. Mr. Skilling was a former Chief Executive Officer for Enron Corporation. He was alleged to have sought to deprive the corporation and its shareholders the "intangible right" of his honest services by engaging in a plot and a scheme to deceive the investing public about the finances of the corporation that he was running (Law School Briefs, 2015).

The discussion of the case centered on a number of points:

The United States Supreme Court found that the Sixth Amendment rights of Skilling, those being the right to trial by an impartial jury, were not violated based on the events as they actually happened (Law School Briefs, 2015).

There was no presumption of juror prejudice due to what did and did not happen during the trial. Further, there was not a showing of actual prejudice. A fully comprehensive questionnaire was administered as part of the trial (Law School Briefs, 2015).

In order to avoid accusations and concerns about vagueness, it was held that USC section 1346 only criminalized schemes to defraud that involved bribes and kickbacks. This is because they were the core applications of the honest services doctrine that led to the statute being created (Law School Briefs, 2015).

Because Skilling was not alleged to have solicited or accepted any payments on the side from a third party in exchange for making the alleged false statements, he did not commit honest services fraud (Law School Briefs, 2015).

Whether the error on the honest services charge was intentional or not was not decided by the United States Supreme Court and thus would be the subject of a remanded proceeding (Law School Briefs, 2015).

The court was unanimous on the honest services fraud issues

The court ruled 6-3 in favor of Skilling on the fair trial issue

Further Analysis

Indeed, the case mentioned above was a boon for Mr. Skilling. It is noted that in June 2013, Skilling won the case and could see his prison sentence (overall) be reduced from twenty-four years to fourteen years. Indeed, it would seem to be many to be a pretty light sentence for someone that helped implode the largest energy trader in the world at the time. It is also noted that Skilling would get out of jail in 2017 if that is indeed what happened. As such, he would get out of jail just a scant two years after the publishing of this report. The sentence reduction was in part due to a deal made between prosecutors and Skilling's lawyers under the supervision of United States District Court Judge Sim Lake III in Houston. As part of the deal, Skilling agreed to forfeit a grand total of $45 million USD, drop his bid for a new trial entirely and end litigation in general as it relates to his 2006 conviction and

...

Even before he cut that deal, he had already had an iron-clad way to get his sentence reduced by nine years due to a sentencing guideline mistake made in a prior hearing. It should also be noted that Skilling was given the minimum sentence under the deal by the judge. Perhaps even more interesting is that there were more than two hundred letters written to the judge on behalf of Skilling. Some of the letters even came from fellow inmates of Skilling (Calkins, 2013).

The feelings against Skilling were still very raw, even at the time of his sentence being adjusted. A former employee of Enron by the name of Diana Peters asserted that many Enron employees gave "110% of their lives to Enron" as well as trust to the aforementioned Skilling. Skilling told the court that he simply supported the deal that he signed off on and that he had nothing more to add or comment about. The prior-mentioned federal case involved a jury in Houston that ended up convicting Skilling and Enron's former chairman Kenneth Lay of manipulating the financial statements of the company and misleading its investors. Kenneth Lay actually ended up dying of a heart attack prior to his sentencing so his conviction actually had to be vacated. As noted before, Skilling (and Lay was apparently going to do the same thing) argued that his conviction was in part based on flawed legal theory and the United States Supreme Court ended up agreeing with him. Even with Skilling's victories in court after his initial conviction, he was still convicted after the presentation of a mountainous amount of evidence. Indeed, it is noted that the United States Court of Appeals in New Orleans looked at the matter and they determined that there was "overwhelming evidence" presented at trial that justified the conviction of Skilling even without the use of the flawed legal theories that were used (Calkins, 2013).

Even with Skilling eventually taking his reduced sentence with a smile, he was more than aggressive in getting his sentence and/or convictions reduced or even eliminated. For example, he accused the Federal Bureau of Investigation of not turning over their notes relating to their earlier interviews with Leo Fastow. Skilling and his counsel said this was relevant because much of what was withheld was markedly different than what was asserted and testified in court. This would theoretically mean that Fastow lied in court or he lied to the investigators prior to the trial, if indeed there was a conflict in the information. It ended up not mattering a whole lot because Fastow cut a deal with investigators and prosecutors so that he would get leniency. He pled guilty to securities and wire fraud in 2004 (two years before Skilling was convicted) and he himself forfeited tens of millions of dollars as part of his bid to get a break in terms of criminal sentencing and charges. This is all relevant because Fastow was maintaining a lot of books that were hidden and "unofficial" and this is a huge part of what led to Enron's losses and problems not being known until things were beyond repair and beyond saving. Indeed, the five thousand jobs and one billion in employee retirement funds were all eviscerated when the company filed chapter 11 bankruptcy in December 2001 (Calkins, 2013; Elkind, 2013).

The breaks just kept coming for Skilling, it would seem. Indeed, there was a bit of breaking news that came out in January 2014 where it was said that Skilling would be moved to minimum-security prison to serve out the rest of his sentence. The new facility that he was moved to holds a scant 874 inmates and is located on the grounds of Maxwell Air Force Base. Prior to that, he had been at the Englewood Federal Correctional Institution in Littleton, Colorado. Even with the leniency, it would seem that perhaps he earned some of the leniency he got. He learned Spanish and then taught the language to others while he was imprisoned there. Even so, the principles of justice and actually being punished for one's crimes seem to be bent a little bit when someone who is a linchpin in such a huge fraud only receives about ten years of actual jail time (Cohn, 2014; ABC-13, 2013).

Conclusion

What follows in this conclusion will delve less in the analytical and more in the analysis and opinion pool of what this assignment was ostensibly for and designed to inculcate. Indeed, Skilling may very well have done great things for the people he served time with. However, he ruined (or at least inhibited) the retirement lives of so many people. He should be serving jail time on par with what happened with the Bernie Madoff case rather than just getting ten years in prison. Further, the incompetent prosecutors should have done a…

Sources Used in Documents:

References

ABC-13,. (2015). Ex-Enron CEO Jeff Skilling will get out of prison in December of 2020 after getting sentence reduced. ABC13 Houston. Retrieved 18 May 2015, from http://abc13.com/archive/9146769/

Calkins, L. (2013). Enron's Skilling to Leave Prison in 2017 as Sentence Cut. Bloomberg.com. Retrieved 18 May 2015, from http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2013-06-21/enron-s-skilling-sentence-reduced-to-14-years-by-judge

Cohn, S. (2014). Enron's Skilling gets another break from the Feds. CNBC. Retrieved 18 May 2015, from http://www.cnbc.com/id/101323543

Elkind, P. (2013). Enron: The real story behind Jeff Skilling's big sentence reduction. Fortune. Retrieved 18 May 2015, from http://fortune.com/2013/05/15/enron-the-real-story-behind-jeff-skillings-big-sentence-reduction/
Law School Case Briefs,. (2013). Law School Case Briefs | Legal Outlines | Study Materials: Skilling v. United States case brief. Lawschoolcasebriefs.net. Retrieved 18 May 2015, from http://www.lawschoolcasebriefs.net/2013/11/skilling-v-united-states-case-brief.html


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