prosecutor in Nacchio case
Stricklin, government attorney in Enron trial, takes on
By Jeff Smith
Rocky Mountain News
Thursday, August 24, 2006
An Enron prosecutor has been named to head the government's
insider-trading case against former Qwest CEO Joe Nacchio.
Cliff Stricklin, one of four prosecutors in the trial of
Enron executives Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling, will replace
Bill Leone as first assistant U.S. attorney in Colorado. He
will make $142,000 a year in the post.
Stricklin, 42, said he took some time off with his family
after the Lay and Skilling guilty verdicts in late May and
is ready to go at it again.
"I feel energized about this opportunity," he said.
Stricklin is bucking the trend of other white-collar
prosecutors who recently have landed high-paying jobs in the
private sector. But he said he felt Denver and the Nacchio
case were the right place and right move for him and his
"I think this is really an important case. Insider trading
affects the integrity of our stock market and, more
importantly, really attacks our sense of fair play,"
Stricklin said. "I certainly thought about private
practice. But . . . really making a difference meant more
to me right now."
Nacchio has pleaded not guilty to the 42 counts of insider
trading. The next pretrial hearing is Friday, and
prosecutors are seeking to close to the public part of the
hearing that relates to potential classified information.
The new U.S. attorney for Colorado, Troy Eid, said Stricklin
was selected after a nationwide search for his No. 2
"He's the man for the hour," Eid said.
Eid said he was keen on Stricklin not only because of his
experience on the Enron task force but because he also has
substantial federal appellate experience and once served as
Eid praised Leone's work as the lead prosecutor on the Qwest
case since 2002, saying the Nacchio case is in "great
Leone plans to re-enter private practice after helping with
the transition on the case. Leone said in a statement he
was pleased that a strong team had been assembled to "pursue
this prosecution to a successful conclusion."
As lead prosecutor, Stricklin will make the key decisions on
the Nacchio case, including which prosecutor handles which
witness. But he indicated the prosecution team would work
Other members are U.S. Assistant Attorney James Hearty and
Justice Department attorneys Colleen Conry and Leo Wise.
Conry and Wise, who also served on the Enron task force,
also are new to the team, meaning that most have to get up
to speed on the case.
Former Denver prosecutor Craig Silverman said Stricklin must
be a hard worker to want this job after his intense stint on
the Enron case.
"I don't know what the government is paying him, but it's
not enough," Silverman said. "There's an unbelievable
amount of reading he's going to have to do. To be a good
trial lawyer, among other things, you have to be the master
of the facts, and there's a whole lot of facts here, one box
after another full of information.
"The last thing you want to do when you're in court is look
like you don't know something important about the case."
One of Stricklin's biggest courtroom moments came in March,
when he questioned a former Enron broadband executive about
a May 2001 meeting attended by Lay and Skilling. The
broadband executive recalled Skilling saying, "They're on to
us," in reaction to an analyst critical of the company's
sales to partnerships run by then Chief Financial Officer
Cliff Stricklin at a
as first assistant U.S. attorney in Colorado.
Enron task force in January 2005 as a special prosecutor and
was one of four who handled the trial of former executives
Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling.
• Knows the
telecommunications business -- lead prosecutor on last
year's fraud trial of five former Enron Broadband
• State judge
in Dallas, 2000-04.
• Former U.S.
Drug Enforcement Administration officer in Washington, D.C.
• Taught at
Southern Methodist University's School of Law in Dallas.
• Graduate of
Baylor University; law degree from Washington & Lee