Seeks to Shut Part of Qwest Hearing
By Sandy Shore, AP
Thursday, August 24, 2006
DENVER (AP) - Prosecutors
have asked a judge to bar the public from part of a motions
hearing set Friday in the insider trading case against
former Qwest Chief Executive Joseph Nacchio because it could
involve classified government information.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Bill Leone said in a motion filed
Friday that attorneys for both sides and the judge should
privately discuss documents that fall under the Classified
Information Protection Act. He said Nacchio's attorneys
agreed with his motion.
The Denver Post on Wednesday filed an objection to the
closed-door request, arguing that the public has extensive
interest in the case against Nacchio and other lawsuits
involving Qwest Communications International Inc.
"The parties can set forth their contentions regarding the
relevancy and admissibility of the classified information
the defendant intends to proffer at trial without disclosing
the content of any classified information," Post attorney
Steven Zansberg said.
"Under these circumstances, it is inappropriate and, indeed,
unconstitutional for the court to close to the public the
entirety of a pretrial criminal hearing, such as this one,
at which the conduct of government prosecutors and the court
are squarely at issue," he wrote.
U.S. attorney's office spokesman Jeff Dorschner said the
portion of the hearing that the government sought to close
would deal just with classified information.
U.S. District Judge Edward Nottingham also is expected to
take up several other motions at the hearing, including
Nacchio's request to move the trial to New Jersey because of
pretrial publicity and his motion to dismiss the charges.
Defense attorneys have said Nacchio had access to classified
information about national security work as part of Qwest's
business dealings with the government that may have given
the former chief executive office hope for the company's
Nottingham has ruled that attorneys for both sides will have
access to any classified documents after going through
security clearances but the information gleaned from the
documents and used at trial will remain sealed.
In a related development, Assistant U.S. Attorney Cliff
Stricklin, who served on the team prosecuting former Enron
Corp. executives, was appointed Wednesday as lead prosecutor
in the Nacchio case.
Stricklin, 42, replaced Bill Leone, who served as U.S.
attorney in Colorado from December 2004 until this month,
when Troy Eid was appointed permanently to the job.
A former judge, Stricklin was one of four attorneys on the
government's team in the trial against former Enron
executives Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling.
In addition to the criminal case, Nacchio is one of several
former executives accused by the Securities and Exchange
Commission of orchestrating a financial fraud that forced
Qwest to restate billions of dollars in revenue.
The SEC has said fraud between April 1999 and March 2002
allowed Qwest to improperly report approximately $3 billion
in revenue that helped clear the way for its 2000
acquisition of the Baby Bell, U S West. The revenue was