lawyers seek new venue
Motion says 'reviled' Qwest figure can't get fair trial in
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
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
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
"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
The next pre-trial hearing is set for Aug. 25.