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Enron's Fastow Seeks -- and Receives -- Leniency

Enron's former finance chief, Andrew Fastow, is sentenced to six years with an additional two years under supervised release. Fastow had worked out a plea deal with prosecutors back in 2004, when he agreed to a prison term of up to 10 years. But Fastow asked Federal Court Judge Kenneth Hoyt for a shorter sentence.

Three years ago, Fastow competed with Enron's former CEO Jeffery Skilling for the title of the most despised man in Houston. But today, not a single person showed up to oppose Fastow's request for lenience.

Instead, there was a chorus of voices all saying the same thing: that Andrew Fastow had profoundly changed. Assistant U.S. Attorney John Heuston, one of the Enron prosecution team's top lawyers, told Hoyt that the government now believes it could not have won convictions of Enron's two top executives, Ken Lay and Skilling, without Fastow's help.

"Mr. Fastow's decision to cooperate allowed us to take the jury inside the company's executive suites," Heuston said.

The prosecutor told the judge that in his 13 years as a federal prosecutor, he'd never seen anyone undergo such an extensive transformation.

But it was not only grateful federal prosecutors who stepped up to the plate.

Now that the criminal trials are over, Fastow has begun helping the lawyers who represent Enron's investors, who lost billions of dollars when the company imploded. They're suing several banks, who they say conspired with Enron to make bank loans appear as corporate profits by concocting sham transactions.

When if was Fastow's turn to speak, he wept as he apologized to Enron's employees, its investors and his family.

"I'm ashamed of what I did, I wish I could undo what I did at Enron but I can't," Fastow said.

He said he would accept whatever sentence was imposed without bitterness.

Judge Hoyt told Fastow that he'd been drunk on the wine of greed. But he said Fastow had become a scapegoat for Enron's sins and that his family had suffered acutely. After he was sentenced, Fastow was allowed a few seconds to hug his distraught wife and then was led away by federal marshals.

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Wade Goodwyn is an NPR National Desk Correspondent covering Texas and the surrounding states.