AUSWR
The Association of U S West Retirees
 

 

 

Nacchio's hired gun fires a blank
By Al Lewis, Staff Columnist
Denver Post
Sunday, August 6, 2006


One reason why ex-Qwest CEO Joe Nacchio wants his insider trading trial moved to New Jersey is me.

"Al Lewis, as the business columnist for The Post, was a major architect of the very hostile stories in The Post," wrote Edward Bronson, a hired witness for Nacchio and a renowned expert on how pre-trial publicity may prejudice juries.

"... He did so, often with inflated rhetoric that was sometimes inflammatorily hostile to Mr. Nacchio," Bronson wrote in a motion filed in U.S. District Court in Denver last week.

Bronson is a California State University professor emeritus with a 14-page curriculum vitae.  He holds a doctorate from the University of Colorado, and degrees from the University of Denver and New York University.  He was a Fulbright scholar.  And he's been an expert witness on change-of-venue motions in 115 cases, including Enron, the Oklahoma City bombing, the Unabomber, and the American Taliban.

He contends Coloradans have been contaminated with Nacchio news, and that the trial should be moved to ensure an unbiased jury.  To reach this conclusion, Bronson reviewed 1,408 articles in Denver newspapers from 2000 to the present.

Of cases he's worked on, he said, only Enron and two Oklahoma City bombing trials generated more pre-trial articles.

I wrote only a tiny fraction of these articles, but somehow my name keeps coming up in Bronson's analysis:

"Lewis wrote in an article headlined, 'Qwest execs' quest for cash is embarrassing,' ... 'Our local phone company is on a Qwest, all right; to stuff the pockets of its board members and executives with obscene piles of cash."

I wrote these words in 2001.  Readers, please circle the word that best describes them:  Hostile.  Inflammatory.  True.

"In the year of 2004 ... there was another attack by columnist Al Lewis.  In a column titled, 'Qwest, lies and videotape,' Lewis re-recounts ... the videotape Joe Nacchio had made at Qwest about business ethics.  Lewis comments that Nacchio's 'oratory is so persuasive, viewers will want a thesaurus to see if "Qwest" is listed as another word for "honesty." ...

"Lewis concluded that Nacchio's performance in teaching ethics was 'pure comic genius ... full of irony."'

Bronson also complained that I mentioned Nacchio's handcuffs five times in a Dec. 21 piece following his indictment.

"Apparently, this was not televised or photographed and surely not seen by prospective jurors, but the prejudice has long been recognized by the courts.  Reporting it seems like gratuitous bias introduced by Mr. Lewis."

Now, I'm no Fulbright scholar, but I think prospective jurors can safely assume that indictments are generally followed by handcuffs.

"The nature of the media coverage of Mr. Nacchio and Qwest is no more about the actual charges ... than the trial of Al Capone was about income tax evasion."

Bronson also seemed to argue that I portrayed Nacchio as a mobster.

"Al Lewis ... observed that "Nacchio wears a dark, pin-striped suit, his eyes sheltered behind wire-rimmed glasses, his New York accent ... "

Dark, pin-striped suits are standard issue for CEOs.  Many CEOs have New York accents.  And wire-rimmed glasses are more for geeks than gangsters.  But Bronson goes on:  "In a headline for his column, Mr. Nacchio 'tawks,' adding that Nacchio's Italian heritage and East Coast attitude is straight out of Brooklyn.'  'He tawks like Joe Pesci in 'Goodfellas.'

I try to avoid ethnic jokes in my column.  So I knew this material was not mine.  It came from a Post article that ran on July 7, 2000, long before I ever penned a Post column.

This article was actually a flattering piece on Nacchio, noting a profile on him in Forbes magazine.  The "Goodfellas" stuff came from Forbes, and was only quoted in the Post article.

Bronson declined an interview, but he apologized to me in an e-mail:  "The quote and headline I attributed to you was not in a column you wrote, but it did appear in the Denver Post as I said in my affidavit. ... and it's written in columnist style.  I'm sorry about that error."

Apology accepted.  But one more thing, for Bronson's records:  I'm not the one who brought up Al Capone, either.

Al Lewis' column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Respond to Lewis at denverpostbloghouse.com/lewis, 303-820-1967 or alewis@denverpost.com.

http://www.denverpost.com/business/ci_4139445