U.S. District Judge Sim Lake handed out the harshest sentenced yet received in the Enron case, a case that has become synonymous with corporate fraud in America.
Enron was the world's largest energy-trading firm, worth more than $68 billion, and the United States' seventh-biggest company before its December 2001 bankruptcy eliminated more than 5,000 jobs and decimated more than $2 billion in pension plans.
A jury convicted Skilling, 52, in May on 19 of 28 charges, including fraud, conspiracy, insider trading and lying to auditors. Skilling was acquitted of nine charges of insider trading and has said that he plans to appeal the conviction.
"In terms of remorse your honor, I can't imagine more remorse," Skilling told Lake before he was sentenced. "That being said your, your honor, I am innocent of these charges. I am innocent of every one of these charges," he said, Bloomberg reported.
Former Enron Chairman Kenneth Lay also was convicted in May for his role in accounting practices and business deals that helped hide the debts of the company and inflate its value to stockholders.
However, Lay died of heart disease in July, while on vacation in Aspen, Colo., before he could be sentenced. Lake overturned Lay's conviction on Oct. 17 in accordance with federal law that requires such a dismissal when a defendant is unable to appeal a conviction. The ruling made it more difficult for the federal government to seek $43.5 million from Lay's estate.
Critics have said Skilling has shown no remorse for his actions -- a charge Skilling denies.
"I can tell you that's just the furthest thing from the truth," he said. "It's been very hard on me, but probably, more important, incredibly hard on my family, incredibly hard on employees of Enron Corp., incredibly hard on my friends and incredibly hard on the community," he said, according to the Associated Press.