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Wife of ex-Enron CFO seeks early release

The lawyer representing the wife of former Enron Corp. finance chief Andrew Fastow has asked a judge to let her out of prison before the end of her sentence.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The lawyer representing the wife of former Enron Corp. finance chief Andrew Fastow has asked a judge to let her out of prison before the end of her yearlong sentence on a tax crime.

Mike DeGeurin, who represents Lea Fastow, filed court papers Tuesday asking U.S. District Judge David Hittner to reduce her sentence to time already served, effectively allowing her to be released more than five months early.

Lea Fastow, 43, became inmate No. 20290-179 for filing a false tax form on July 12 after months of legal wrangling that involved a standoff between DeGeurin and Hittner over the type of guilty plea she would enter.

She is serving time alongside accused drug runners in the federal detention center in downtown Houston, essentially a federal jail that houses male and female inmates serving time and those facing trial.

"She has now spent almost seven months under fluorescent lights, not allowed outside for fresh air even for recreation, in overcrowded conditions and without the basic programs offered by a normal institution," DeGeurin said in the filing, noting that cells designed for two women now house a third on a cot to handle overflow.

"She has been serving hard time in the literal sense and without complaint," DeGeurin said.

Andrew Weissmann, head of the Justice Department's Enron Task Force, declined comment on DeGeurin's request. Hittner was expected to rule next week.

Lea Fastow was half of an Enron power couple before the company collapsed upon revelations of her husband's years of manipulating financial statements while enriching himself with millions on the side.

Andrew Fastow was originally indicted on what grew to nearly 100 counts of fraud, insider trading, conspiracy, and others in 2002. Lea Fastow, who was an assistant treasurer at Enron before quitting in 1997 to focus on motherhood, was indicted on six felony counts of conspiracy and tax crimes six months later.

In January 2004, Lea Fastow pleaded guilty to a felony tax crime, but later withdrew her plea after the judge balked at its requirement he sentence her to five months in prison and five months confined at home. Hittner said he wanted to be able to consider the full range of 10 to 16 months required by sentencing guidelines.

The judge eventually approved a plea deal with Lea Fastow in which prosecutors set aside the felony counts filed against her in favor of a single misdemeanor tax crime. Hittner then issued the maximum sentence of one year.

Andrew Fastow, who pleaded guilty to two conspiracy counts and has agreed to serve a decade in prison, is expected to be the key witness in the yet-unscheduled trial of Enron founder Kenneth Lay, former CEO Jeffrey Skilling and former top accountant Richard Causey, who have pleaded innocent to charges including conspiracy and fraud.