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Nacchio lawyers seek new venue
Motion says 'reviled' Qwest figure can't get fair trial in Colo.
By Jeff Smith
Rocky Mountain News
Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Attorneys for former Qwest Chief Executive Joe Nacchio on Monday reiterated the claim that he is "among the most reviled figures in recent Denver history" and that his insider-trading trial should be moved out of state.  "It simply cannot be denied that severe animus exists towards Mr. Nacchio in the District of Colorado," said the 43-page motion filed by his attorneys in Denver federal court and supplemented by hundreds of pages of exhibits.

Exhibits included local newspaper articles, columns and editorials that Nacchio's attorneys argue were "highly inflammatory and replete with hostility, resentment, suspicion and repeated calls for Mr. Nacchio's indictment."

Nacchio's attorneys also said it would be inconvenient for him to be tried in Denver because he helps take care of his ailing 88-year-old mother in New Jersey and his sons, who plan to attend the trial, require continuous medical supervision.

Craig Silverman, a Denver defense lawyer and former prosecutor, said Nacchio has almost no chance of prevailing in his motion.

"His chances are slim and none, and I would bet heavily on none," Silverman said.  "At the same time, defense attorneys have to raise the issue so it can be one of several appellate points in case there's a conviction.  It also makes the judge alert during jury selection to weed out people who might be tainted by negative publicity."

Nacchio's attorneys argued Monday for the ability to question potential jurors individually rather than in groups and for additional juror challenges, or "strikes" from the pool.

Nacchio, 56, is fighting 42 charges of insider trading in connection with selling $101 million of Qwest stock in the first five months of 2001.  Federal prosecutors accuse Nacchio of accelerating his stock sales at a time he knew the Denver telco's financial condition was deteriorating.  Nacchio has repeatedly denied wrongdoing.  A trial date has not been set.

It is extremely rare, such as in the case of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, for a federal trial to be moved.  Silverman noted Enron executives Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling were tried in the company's hometown of Houston, despite the fact that Enron went bankrupt and thousands of residents lost huge portions of their retirement savings.

Jeff Dorschner, spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Denver, said the government opposes a change of venue and will file a more detailed response later with the court.

Nacchio's attorneys hired a California professor to analyze publicity and conduct a survey of Denver-area residents, but they said the survey hasn't been completed.

Silverman thinks Nacchio's image actually may have improved recently after USA Today reported that Nacchio refused to turn over customer phone records to the National Security Agency after the terrorist attacks in 2001.

As part of their argument that Nacchio can't get a fair trial in Denver, his attorneys referred to U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Denver, who said once that she wasn't surprised by Nacchio's indictment because Qwest's business practices were clearly "over the edge."

Nacchio's attorneys also said a trial in Denver would force his family to relocate from New Jersey and add to his personal burden.

"Indeed, it was these familial duties to his elderly parents (his father since deceased) and to his children which prevented Mr. Nacchio from relocating to Denver as CEO of Qwest."

The next pre-trial hearing is set for Aug. 25.

http://www.rockymountainnews.com/drmn/other_business/article/0,2777,DRMN_23916_4884548,00.html