Skilling Presses on Despite Supreme Court Defeat

Former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling will go back to square one now that the Supreme Court has declined to reconsiderhis case.

Former Enron CEO Jeff Skilling
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Former Enron CEO Jeff Skilling

Skilling’s attorney says he will go back to the court where the former CEO was convicted in 2006 in the most notorious corporate collapse in U.S. history.

“We will be returning to the district court for further proceedings,” defense attorney Daniel Petrocelli said in an e-mail to CNBC.

Still pending before U.S. District Judge Sim Lake, who presided over Skilling’s 2006 trial, is a planned defense motion for a new trial based on new evidence. Skilling’s defense team has alleged misconduct by the Justice Department’s elite Enron Task Force, formed in the wake of the energy company’s epic 2001 collapse.

In addition, an appeals court ruled in 2009 that Skilling’s 24-year prison sentence was too harsh, and ordered Lake to resentence him. All the district court proceedings have been on hold while the Supreme Court case played out.

Without explanation on Monday, the high court denied Skilling’s petition to re-hear the case. In 2010, the court had sent the case back to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals for review, after ruling prosecutors overreached in their use of the so-called “honest services” theory. The theory, widely used in white collar cases for years, held that it is a crime for an executive to deprive shareholders or employees of their right to his or her “honest services.”

Last year, the appeals court ruled that the error was “harmless” and upheld Skilling’s conviction, and the Supreme Court has now effectively agreed.

Skilling, 58, was convicted on 19 counts including fraud, conspiracy and insider trading related to Enron’s collapse. The architect of Enron’s business model, he rose to CEO in early 2001, only to abruptly resign six months later. He was tried alongside Enron founder and Chairman Kenneth Lay who was also convicted. Lay died less than two months after the verdict and his convictions were wiped out.

Skilling has served about five years of his sentence, and is currently housed at a low security federal prison in Englewood, CO.