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The Association of U S West Retirees
 

 

 

Nacchio lawyers file for trial shift
His attorneys say Denver is "poisoned" for the former Qwest chief executive, who is facing 42 insider-trading charges.
By Greg Griffin, Staff Writer
Denver Post
Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Former Qwest chief executive Joseph Nacchio wants his insider-trading trial to take place in his home state of New Jersey rather than the "poisoned local environment" of Denver.

Nacchio's attorneys said Monday that "intensive negative media coverage repeatedly and continually showered on Mr. Nacchio and Qwest" make it impossible for him to get a fair jury trail in Denver.

Also contributing to the local prejudice are the "emotional, financial and psychological effects ... resulting from the price decline of Qwest stock, layoffs by the company, (and) losses to the Qwest employee pension plan," Nacchio attorneys Herbert Stern and John Richilano said in a filing in U.S. District Court in Denver.

"Among the populace in the greater Denver area, Mr. Nacchio is widely presumed to be guilty," they said in a 43-page motion accompanied by scores of newspaper articles.  "In light of the deep, widespread feelings of betrayal, anger, and victimization throughout Denver, even jurors who have not formed a preconceived opinion of guilt will be under intense pressure from their peers and their community to convict."

A spokcesman for the prosecution said the government opposes a change of venue.  The government has said the venue is proper because the alleged crimes occurred in Colorado and many victims are in Colorado.

Experts say changes of venue are rare but are occasionally granted.  Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling of Enron failed to move their trail out of Houston, and Bernie Ebbers of WorldCom was unable to change his venue from New Your to Mississippi.

The government has until Aug. 18 to respond to the motion to change venue.

His lawyers argued that New Jersey would be a better venue because Nacchio, his family and Stern live there and most of his trail witnesses live on the East Coast.  Moreover, they said, Nacchio made many of the stock sales in question by phone, many of them from his home in Mendham, N.J.

Nacchio hired an expert to analyze the attitude of the Denver public toward him.

"The extent of the coverage of this case, the defendant, and related events is one of the most extensive I have ever reviewed," venue specialist Edward Bronson said in Monday's filing.  "By any objective criterion, it provides very strong support for a change of venue."

Bronson, however, has not yet completed a survey of Denver residents, and Nacchio's attorneys requested until Sept. 15 for him to do so.

Short of a venue change, Nacchio's defense argued that the judge should impose a series of rules regarding jury selection to minimize prejudice.

U.S. District Judge Edward Nottingham is hearing the case.  A trial date has not been set.

Staff writer Greg Griffin can be reached at 303-820-1241 or ggriffin@denverpost.com.

http://www.denverpost.com/business/ci_4118800