updated 4/29/2004 4:57:25 PM ET 2004-04-29T20:57:25

The wife of former Enron Corp. finance chief Andrew Fastow has a new proposed plea deal, and she likely won't spend more than six months in prison.

Federal prosecutors on Thursday wiped out a previous indictment charging Lea Fastow with six felonies — four counts of filing false tax forms and two counts of conspiracy — and replaced it with a single misdemeanor charge of filing a false tax form.

Under federal sentencing guidelines, she is virtually guaranteed no more than six months in prison. She is scheduled to plead guilty to the lesser count and be sentenced May 6.

The new deal will let her avoid a trial scheduled for June 2 on the six felony counts, and get around U.S. District Judge David Hittner's rejection of a previous plea deal that would have bound him to sentence her to five months in prison and five months confined at home.

"They restructured the deal so she would get the benefit she thought she was going to get all along," said Kirby Behre, a former federal prosecutor and an expert on federal sentencing guidelines. "Her worst day is six months. They are trying to lock in the deal they had."

The maximum prison term for the misdemeanor tax charge is a year in prison, but guidelines limit the sentencing range to six months, Behre said. Hittner could depart from that range and impose more prison time, "but that would be very rare and ill-advised, because those don't often withstand appeal," Behre said.

Lea Fastow's attorney, Mike DeGeurin, didn't immediately return calls for comment.

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