Former Enron Broadband Exec Sentenced

Kenneth Rice, former head of Enron's broadband division, leaves the federal courthouse in Houston Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2006, after his first day of testimony for the prosecution in the fraud and conspiracy trial of former Enron executives Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan) AP Photo

The former chief of Enron Corp.'s high-speed Internet unit, who turned government witness and testified in the trial of former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling and company founder Kenneth Lay, was sentenced Monday to 27 months in prison.

It's been nearly three years since Kenneth Rice, 48, pleaded guilty to securities fraud and agreed to help federal prosecutors on other cases related to the energy giant's collapse. His sentencing was postponed as he cooperated with prosecutors.

Before sentencing, Rice apologized for his role in the corporate scandal that wiped out thousands of jobs, more than $60 billion in market value and more than $2 billion in pension plans.

"I'm sorry. I wasn't raised that way and I'm ashamed of that," he said, his voice breaking with emotion. "I'm committed to turning my life around."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ben Campbell said he was satisfied with the sentence from U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore.

Before sentencing, Campbell noted to the court Rice's "candid testimony" in the trial of Skilling and Lay, who were convicted last year for their roles in the company's collapse. Rice testified for eight days at the trial and met 63 times with prosecutors as part of his cooperation.

Skilling is serving a sentence of more than 24 years. Lay's death in July from heart disease wiped out his convictions for conspiracy, fraud and other charges.

Rice had faced up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million. The plea agreement with prosecutors also required him to forfeit $13.7 million in cash and property that included jewelry and a pair of exotic sports cars.

Rice was charged in 2003 with selling 1.2 million shares of Enron stock for more than $76 million while he knew Enron Broadband Services was failing. The more than 40 counts against him included fraud, conspiracy and other charges for participating in a scheme to tout Enron's broadband network as having capabilities it didn't possess to impress analysts and inflate the company's stock.

According to the Justice Department, the unit never made a dime and was abandoned shortly after Enron's bankruptcy filing in December 2001. Although Enron was primarily an energy trader, the broadband unit was created in 1998 as another growth engine during the dot-com boom.

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    Scott Conroy is a National Political Reporter for RealClearPolitics and a contributor for CBS News.

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