gets started with questions
Deliberations' Day 1 includes call for prosecution exhibit
By Andy Vuong, Staff Writer
Friday, April 13, 2007
A jury of eight men and four women completed the first day of
deliberations in the criminal insider-trading case of former
Qwest chief executive Joe Nacchio without reaching a verdict.
In their hands is the fate of a man accused of illegally selling
$100.8 million in Qwest stock during the first five months of
2001. Nacchio could face 10 years in prison if convicted on
just one of the 42 counts of illegal insider trading.
The jury appeared ready to pore over the multitude of evidence
presented during the past four weeks, posing questions about
exhibits to the judge shortly after deliberations began
Jurors asked for a master list of exhibits, which was granted.
U.S. District Judge Edward
Nottingham denied their request for a large, foam board that
prosecutor Colleen Conry used during her closing argument as a
demonstrative exhibit to break out the 42 counts. A United
Airlines pilot was selected as the jury foreman. Others in the
group include a radio grapher, an engineer, administrative
workers and retirees.
The jury is scheduled to reconvene today at 8:45 a.m.
Nottingham read instructions to jurors for about an hour
Thursday morning before sending them to their 10th-floor jury
room at the Denver federal courthouse with a copy of the
indictment, a verdict form and their personal notes.
"You have two main duties as jurors in this case," he said.
"The first is to decide what the facts are. The second is to
follow the law stated in the instructions of the court, apply
the law to the facts, and decide if the government has proved
the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt."
Nottingham told them they must find that the government proved
beyond a reasonable doubt that Nacchio sold stock on the basis
of inside information and did so with an intent to defraud: "It
is not sufficient for an insider merely to have possessed the
material nonpublic information when he traded."
The government alleges Nacchio was repeatedly told by his top
executives beginning in late 2000 that Qwest would struggle to
hit financial targets in 2001. Instead of disclosing the
problems to the public, prosecutors say, Nacchio dumped stock
faster than ever from January to May 2001.
Nacchio's attorneys have contended that he was upbeat on Qwest
and was forced to sell his stock options because they were set
to expire. They've also said the warnings given to him were
about internal budgets, which were set higher than the public
guidance the company issued.
During his instructions, Nottingham guided jurors on how to
examine testimony from witnesses who have reached plea deals
with or received immunity from the government in exchange for
their cooperation. Several government witnesses, including
former Qwest president Afshin Mohebbi, received immunity for
their testimony against Nacchio.
Such witnesses are "competent," Nottingham said. "But you
should examine that testimony with greater care than the
testimony of an ordinary witness."
The jury foreman has worked as a United Airlines pilot for 20
years. He is married to a former flight attendant. During jury
selection, he said top executives should be paid based on how
their companies perform.
"Well, you know, as long as they're returning equity back to the
shareholders and the company is meeting its objectives, I think
they should be paid well," he said. "But when the companies do
poorly, and they're not performing in their jobs, I think in
those cases, they are overpaid."
Nottingham then asked, "Can you foresee how that opinion would
affect any verdict you would render in this case?"
"It could possibly," he responded. "I don't believe it would
because I have no hard feelings toward the executives through
(although) United's going through the bankruptcy."
Nacchio joined Qwest in 1997 and was ousted by the board of
directors in June 2002. He led Qwest through tremendous growth
before the company nearly crashed into bankruptcy at the end of
his tenure amid the tech downturn and news of accounting
irregularities. Qwest later restated $2.5 billion in revenue
booked from 2000 to 2002.
Staff writer Andy Vuong can be reached at 303-954-1209 or