By Carrie Johnson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 21, 2006
Lawyers for former Enron Corp. finance chief Andrew S. Fastow are asking a judge for leniency in advance of his sentencing on conspiracy charges next week, according to court papers filed in Houston.
Fastow's defense lawyers cited letters from unnamed teachers, friends and relatives who say that Fastow has "stepped up to take responsibility" and has expressed "full remorse" for his role in disguising financial problems at the Houston energy company. Enron's December 2001 collapse cost investors and employees billions of dollars.
Over the past two years, Fastow, 44, has helped victims of Hurricane Katrina and volunteered with Meals on Wheels and at his synagogue, where he has taught classes, built a playground and picnic table, and mowed the lawn. "He is a changed man," the court filing said.
Fastow pleaded guilty to two conspiracy charges in January 2004, agreeing to a 10-year maximum prison sentence in exchange for testifying against onetime chief executives Jeffrey K. Skilling and Kenneth L. Lay. During the trial, in which defense lawyers challenged his veracity, Fastow told the jury he "destroyed" his life and was "ashamed to the core."
A jury convicted both men in May. Skilling, who is to be sentenced next month, has vowed to appeal. Lay died of heart disease in July.
As the man at the center of the long-running fraud, Fastow ultimately emerged as the public face of the Enron scandal and endured "unprecedented public humiliation" in books, movies and congressional hearings, his lawyers John Keker and David Gerger wrote.
Already, they say, Fastow has suffered emotionally, as his wife served almost a year in a high-security Houston prison after pleading guilty to failing to report income taxes from his partnerships. During that stretch, Fastow cared for the couple's two sons, now 8 and 11. One unnamed letter-writer called him "the Dad I would like to be."
Fastow's plea helped crack open another fraud case, his defense lawyers contend. They cited evidence that Fastow's deal inspired former WorldCom Inc. finance chief Scott D. Sullivan to plead guilty two months later and to testify successfully against his former boss, Bernard J. Ebbers. Sullivan is serving a five-year term, half what Fastow could receive.
Under the terms of the Fastow deal, U.S. District Judge Kenneth M. Hoyt has the option of sentencing Fastow to serve fewer than 10 years in prison but no more than that. "Ten years is not 'necessary' for the message of deterrence to be heard," his lawyers wrote.
Victims of Enron's bankruptcy are invited to sign up at the courthouse on the day of the proceeding to express their own opinions about an apt punishment for Fastow, according to a prior ruling by the judge.