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Nacchio prosecutor leaving federal post
By Sara Burnett
Rocky Mountain News
Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Cliff Stricklin, lead prosecutor on the team that secured a conviction of former Qwest CEO Joe Nacchio, said Tuesday he will leave his job as first assistant U.S. attorney for Colorado this spring to enter private practice.

Stricklin, 43, will join Holland & Hart LLP, working in its Denver office.  He plans to focus on business dispute and securities litigation and work with the team's white- collar group.

He also will teach a course this fall at the University of Colorado law school.

The native Texan called the departure bittersweet.

"After years of working on large, complex cases, I just think the time is right for a new challenge," Stricklin said.

He also said he hasn't ruled out a future bid for public office, although he said he has no immediate plans to run.

U.S. Attorney for Colorado Troy Eid recruited Stricklin for the $142,000-a-year job in August 2006, shortly after Eid was appointed the state's top federal prosecutor.

Stricklin had just finished serving on the Department of Justice's Enron Task Force, helping convict former Enron executives Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling.

At the time, he was the only one of the four main prosecutors on that team not to leave government work for a more lucrative position at a private firm.

He chose to come to Denver and take on the challenge of the Nacchio prosecution -- readying it for trial in less than eight months -- because he thought it was such an important case, he said.

The timing was crucial.

Several members of the Nacchio trial team, including then-acting U.S. Attorney William Leone, had left, and infighting was threatening to derail the case.

Department of Justice officials in Washington were so concerned about the Denver office's ability to get a conviction that they wanted to take over the prosecution.

Eid persuaded them otherwise, his case buoyed by the hiring of Stricklin.

Nacchio was charged with 42 counts of insider trading.  At trial, Stricklin questioned several of the key witnesses, including Qwest founder Phil Anschutz.

He also gave the prosecution's rebuttal argument -- the last words jurors heard before deliberating.

The jury convicted Nacchio in April on 19 counts, and U.S. District Judge Edward Nottingham sentenced him to six years in prison.  Nacchio is appealing the conviction and sentence.

"Cliff is one of the best lawyers to come to Colorado in a long time," Eid said Tuesday.  "I'm just very glad he's decided to stay here."

Stricklin is scheduled to travel to Bangladesh in mid-March as part of the Department of Justice's international anti-corruption efforts.  He made a similar trip to Malawi before coming to Colorado.

He expects to begin work at Holland & Hart in April.

Eid will promote David Gaouette, currently the executive assistant U.S. attorney, to the first assistant's post.  Paul Farley, head of the appellate division, will become associate U.S. attorney, Eid's third- in-command.

burnetts@RockyMountainNews.com or 303-954-5343

Stricklin's resume

* Lead prosecutor in case against former Qwest CEO Joe Nacchio, convicted last year of 19 counts of insider trading

* Named first assistant U.S. attorney for Colorado in August 2006

* As a member of the Department of Justice's Enron Task Force, helped secure the May 2006 conviction of former Enron executives Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling

* Co-lead prosecutor in the Enron Broadband case

* Texas state district judge, 2000 to 2004

* Former assistant U.S. attorney, Eastern District of Texas

http://www.rockymountainnews.com/news/2008/feb/06/nacchio-prosecutor-leaving-federal-post/