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December 22, 2007

Disparities, trial penalty and Gall in Skilling reply brief

Thanks to this post at White Collar Crime Prof Blog, I was able to access the 162-page reply brief(!) filed by Jeff Skilling's legal team in his Fifth Circuit appeal.  The sentencing arguments begin on page 143, and these disparity arguments are developed starting at page 152:

Skilling’s 24.3-year sentence reflects a profound and unwarranted disparity compared to the (1) uniformly below-Guidelines sentences imposed on eight even more culpable high-ranking executives from major corporations; and (2) the 5.5 year sentence imposed on co-defendant Richard Causey.

In developing point (2), the reply brief makes these points (with some cites omitted) about the relevance of co-defendant disparity:

The [Enron] Task Force says the district court was prohibited from considering the sentence imposed on former Enron CAO Richard Causey because the Guidelines and sentencing statutes concern “nationwide” disparities rather than those among co-defendants.  This is not the law.  This Circuit has long recognized the district court’s ability to consider co-defendants’ sentences.  Similarly, in the post-Booker, advisory-Guidelines regime, courts regularly consider the sentences imposed on co-defendants. Indeed, just this month, the Supreme Court expressly approved of a sentencing court’s giving “specific attention to the issue of disparity when [it] inquired about the sentences already imposed by a different judge on two…co-defendants.”  Gall, slip op. at 9....

There is no rational and lawful basis for the 19-year disparity between Causey and Skilling’s sentences. The only ground offered by the district court [Skilling’s decision to exercise his right to trial] was contrary to the Constitution.

Though the Fifth Circuit might not reach sentencing issues in the Skilling appeal, this case is worth watching closely if they do because these kinds of disparity arguments seem especially important in the wake of Rita, Gall and Kimbrough.

December 22, 2007 at 01:14 PM | Permalink

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» Commentary on Skilling's Reply Brief from White Collar Crime Prof Blog
The Skilling Reply Brief is lengthy as noted here, although not as long as defense counsel would have liked. Their opening line in the Statement of Facts is that [s]pace limitations preclude a full recitation of the Task Force's distortion [Read More]

Tracked on Dec 22, 2007 11:59:30 PM

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