The Sales Pitch Ends for Enron Execs
From the wave of convictions this morning for Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling, it's fairly obvious now that federal jurors in Houston didn't believe the former Enron officials when they testified at length and under oath that they didn't engage in any fraud and didn't even know it was going on inside the company.
It's a huge victory for prosecutors., a watershed case for them, and a crushing blow for the two defendants, who right up until the end thought they might be able to convince jurors that the apple wasn't rotten to the core. For the feds, they have the satisfaction of knowing that they have just a won a trial that wasn't nearly as easy as it appeared to be. Even though the trial took place in Houston, which bore the brunt of the Enron collapse, and even though the jury pool was full of people with nasty things to say about the defense, the case against the two men wasn't foolproof.
Both men now will be sentenced and sent to a federal prison and barring some miracle on appeal it won't be a short stay, either. In Lay's case, he likely will face what amounts to a life sentence given his age and the number of felony convictions he has received today. Remember, it wasn't just jurors who voted to convict him. It was the trial judge, too, who was looking at other charges, too. In Skilling's case, he is looking at scores of years in prison even if he does not receive the maximum sentence. Look for a big fight at sentencing over whether the men ought to go to prison pending their appeal.
Speaking of that appeal, both men have several legitimate issues to raise, including how the jury was selected, who served on the panel, how prosecutors cut deals with many former Enron officials and a number of more technical issues, including the jury instruction that allowed jurors to consider that both men could have been willfully ignorant about what happened at Enron and still be convicted. The trial may be over. But the case is not. We have not heard the last of the two men who raised Enron up so high and then commanded it down to the depths.
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