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We’re sure you’ve heard that two power companies will cough up $84 million to cover their asses for their role in California’s energy crisis a few years back. And we’re sure we can guess your reaction: Forget about skanky celebs behind bars. Tell us more about the lone criminal case to result from such a flagrant manipulation of the state’s energy supply! We feel exactly the same way.

With PacifiCorp and El Paso Corp. consenting to settle claims filed against them by various state regulatory agencies, California will have recouped more than $6 billion for the 2000-’01 blackout hijinks pulled by power companies. But receiving far less attention was the recent demise of the criminal case against the Reliant Energy executives accused of conspiring to hatch the energy scam.

Three months ago – in that desperate, benighted era before The Snitch was born – the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Francisco dropped conspiracy, market manipulation, and fraud charges against Reliant and four of its traders. After three years of litigation, the company got off with paying a $22.2 million penalty. (Reliant previously had settled claims with the state totaling more than $450 million.)

Much of the blame for the case’s inglorious end would seem to lie with former U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan. The constant turnover of federal prosecutors during his beleaguered reign resulted in the Reliant file being passed around like the flu – no fewer than three different teams of attorneys handled the case. “There was no consistency,” one prosecutor in the office told us. “The way [the case] ended, it’s an embarrassment.”

Which sounds like an apt epitaph for Ryan's tenure. -- Martin Kuz

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