Jeffrey Skilling, the former CEO of Enron Corp. is officially out of options for challenging his 2006 conviction on charges of conspiracy, securities fraud, insider trading and lying to auditors. The very public former head of the failed accounting firm, who is currently serving a 26-year sentence in federal prison in Colorado, had obtained a victory before the Supreme Court in 2010 in a highly publicized decision in which the Supreme Court ruled that Skilling could not be convicted for “honest services” fraud where his actions did not involve any bribery or kickbacks. The Supreme Court had remanded the case back to the lower court to decide whether or not Skilling was deserving of a new trial.
Skilling took the position that due to the error on the honest services fraud conviction, his convictions on all the other counts should be thrown out as well. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, however, reaffirmed his 19-count conviction on the basis that the verdict would have been the same, regardless of the absence of bribery or kickbacks, due to “overwhelming evidence that Skilling conspired to commit securities fraud.”
Skilling appealed that ruling to the Supreme Court of the United States who denied certiorari, leaving Skilling with nothing to show for his earlier victory.
All that remains in this highly publicized case is the pending re-sentencing of Skilling based on a prior ruling that the Appeals Court had made concluding that the trial judge who oversaw the initial sentencing erred on one particular issue.
What had initially seemed like a groundbreaking victory for the defense bar on the Honest Services Fraud issues, at least in relation to the many highly publicized cases, including not only Skilling but former Illinois governor George Ryan, has merely fizzled out as in many of these cases it has been determined that this distinction carved out by the Supreme Court ultimately had little to no effect on the convictions, an idea that has seemingly been endorsed by the Supreme Court in denying certiorari to Skilling. This is not to say that the Supreme Court’s earlier ruling is not impactful, as it certainly will limit the government’s use of the honest services language as a sword against criminal defendants. But with respect to these highly publicized cases, in the end nothing really changed.