Lea Fastow's Bid for Shorter Jail Time Denied in Enron Case

A federal judge Wednesday rejected a request by Enron's Lea Fastow (search) to shorten her one-year jail sentence, which she had complained was longer than usual and subjected her to harsh conditions.

In a bluntly worded ruling, the court said there were no grounds to justify Fastow's early release without a request from prosecutors or the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

Fastow, wife of former Enron Corp. (search) Chief Financial Officer Andrew Fastow (search) and a former Enron assistant treasurer herself, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of lying on her income tax return about money received from an Enron side deal.

"The court is completely devoid of jurisdiction to reduce Fastow's sentence at this stage," U.S. District Court Judge David Hitner said in his order.

Lawyers for Fastow, who began her sentence at the cramped federal detention center in downtown Houston on July 12, had asked the U.S. District Court earlier this month for her early release "in the interest of justice."

She has been helping federal prosecutors build cases against other former executives of Enron, which went bankrupt on Dec. 2, 2001, amid disclosures that it had hidden billions of dollars in debt and inflated profits.

Andrew Fastow, at the epicenter of the financial scandal that reverberated throughout corporate America, has pleaded guilty to two conspiracy charges in exchange for a 10-year sentence which he has not yet begun to serve.

He also is cooperating with prosecutors and is expected to provide key information in the cases against former Chairman Ken Lay (search) and former Chief Executive Jeff Skilling (search).

At the time of her plea bargain, prosecutors with the U.S. Justice Department's Enron Task Force said Lea Fastow should serve only five months in prison, but Judge Hittner disagreed and sentenced her to one year behind bars.

He also refused to recommend putting her in a minimum-security federal prison where inmates have fewer restrictions and better conditions.