committed no crimes'
Ex-Qwest exec was never asked to make plea deal, lawyer says
By Jeff Smith
Rocky Mountain News
Tuesday, December 6, 2005
The attorney of former Qwest President Afshin Mohebbi said
Monday that federal prosecutors never tried to get his
client to accept a plea bargain. "He was never asked to
plead guilty to a criminal charge," New York attorney Paul
Grand said. "And he would not have because he committed no
Jeff Dorschner, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in
Colorado, declined to comment.
Mohebbi, who has been granted immunity in the case, former
Chief Financial Officer Robin Szeliga and Qwest's former
chief legal counsel Drake Tempest are emerging as possible
key witnesses against former CEO Joe Nacchio should the
latter be indicted for insider trading.
Reuters reported late Friday that Mohebbi and Tempest
recently testified in front of a federal grand jury, but
Grand declined to comment on the report. Tempest's attorney
didn't return a phone call Monday.
Many experts thought Mohebbi, who faces civil fraud charges,
would be in the clear criminally because he didn't benefit
from stock sales.
Federal prosecutors appeared poised to seek an indictment
against Nacchio on insider trading charges three weeks ago,
according to several sources familiar with the
investigation. But, with the grand jury meeting at least
one more time this month, an indictment still could come
before year's end.
There could be a number of reasons for a delay, from
prosecutors wanting to wrap up loose ends and finalize
agreements with key witnesses, to grand jurors being absent
or having questions, to prosecutors evaluating defense
The Wall Street Journal
reported recently that Nacchio's legal team was pursuing a
national-security defense strategy that could pose evidence
issues for the prosecution and judge.
The timing of a possible Nacchio indictment has been linked
to the fact that the U.S. Attorney's Office in Colorado has
been granted only until year-end a freeze on civil fraud
proceedings against Nacchio. But a hearing on that deadline
tentatively isn't scheduled to take place until
mid-January. Five-year statute of limitation risks don't
appear to be an issue until next spring.
Federal prosecutors are thought to be focusing on when
Nacchio sold nearly $50 million of Qwest stock in a
three-week period after Qwest's first-quarter earnings were
announced on April 24, 2001.
Szeliga, who already has pleaded guilty to insider trading,
said in her plea agreement that other senior executives knew
by that date that Qwest was beefing up its numbers through
questionable and undisclosed one-time deals.