Skilling hits fresh low with fine for public intoxication

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Jeffrey Skilling, the former Enron chief executive facing prison for fraud and insider trading, has been fined $385 after being found drunk in a ritzy uptown area of Dallas.

The 52-year-old could be sentenced to more than 20 years in prison after being convicted earlier this year on 19 counts of fraud, conspiracy and insider trading.

And in a new addition to his legal miseries, he was arrested in the small hours of a Saturday morning last month, briefly held in a town jail, and ticketed for public intoxication.

He had been found wandering a swanky area of shops and restaurants north of downtown Dallas, where he has a townhouse. Daniel Petrocelli, Skilling's lawyer, said he had gone for a walk after having drinks with dinner. Police officers said he had slurred speech and showed other signs of intoxication, but did not resist arrest.

Court papers filed in Dallas showed that Skilling pleaded no contest to settle the incident and has paid the $385 fine and court costs. A judge ruled he had not violated the terms of his $5m bail, but he has agreed to increase the frequency of his visits to alcohol treatment and mental health counsellors.

"Jeff is doing the very best he can to deal with a nearly impossible situation," Mr Petrocelli said. He is likely to argue, at Skilling's sentencing in Houston on 23 October, that the former Enron boss has already suffered significant public humiliation and distress over the collapse of the energy trading company in 2001. Enron's former chief financial officer Andrew Fastow, who pleaded guilty to fraud and testified against Skilling earlier this year, was given a lenient six-year sentence in part because of the public opprobrium he had already suffered.

Last month's incident is not the first of its kind since Enron went under, and Skilling became one of America's most recognisable symbols of executive malfeasance. In April 2004, he was involved in a scuffle with patrons of a cigar bar in New York City. He wasn't arrested, but he and his wife, Rebecca, who was hurt in the incident, were taken to a hospital where blood tests showed he was intoxicated.