Hall paid for Qwest prosecutors' education
By Al Lewis, Staff Columnist
Monday, April 23, 2007
Friday would have been Ann Hall's 11th wedding anniversary.
Her husband, former Qwest sales executive Tom Hall, died March
"Prophetically, he died the opening day of (former Qwest CEO
Joe) Nacchio's trial," Hall said when I called her at home in
She had put all bitterness aside to mourn. But when she heard
news of the verdict -- Nacchio guilty on 19 counts of insider
trading -- it all came back.
"It hit me like a ton of bricks," she said. "It was a just
conviction, but I am not joyful about any of it."
Her husband, in a roundabout
way, played a key role in shaping the case against Nacchio. "It
was a test case to make it easier to convict the people that
they really felt were guilty," Hall said. "Justice was done (in
Nacchio's case). And a grave injustice was done to Tom."
Tom Hall, who joined Qwest in 2000, was among four midlevel
executives on trial in 2004. They were accused of improperly
booking $33.6 million in revenue from an equipment sale to
Arizona schools in 2001 to help Qwest meet financial targets.
It was a complex case about allegedly bogus accounting, and it
ended badly for prosecutors.
Hall's attorney, Jeffrey Springer, portrayed Hall as a man Qwest
served up when investigators came knocking.
"This is a case about a cold, calculating corporation offering
up as a sacrifice -- as a scapegoat -- an honest, decent
employee so that corporation would not end up in this
courtroom," he argued.
Two defendants were acquitted, and the case against two others
-- Hall and former finance executive Grant Graham -- ended in a
hung jury. Faced with a second trial, Graham pleaded guilty to
a felony and testified against Nacchio.
As for Hall, he pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of
falsifying documents and received one year of probation and a
Unlike Nacchio, Hall never made a dime selling Qwest stock. And
Hall spent his retirement account and much of his family's
savings defending himself. Faced with a second trial, he felt
he had little choice but to plead, his wife said.
At sentencing, federal Judge Robert Blackburn said Hall was "an
otherwise law-abiding citizen. ... This offense is completely
inconsistent with his character."
And yet a federal grand jury had indicted Hall twice, and his
signature was on letters associated with an alleged scheme to
inflate Qwest's revenues.
"When I charged the midlevel guys in that case, I felt it was
important to send a statement ... that you can't falsify
documents to reach a number," former acting U.S. Attorney
William Leone said.
Prosecutors learned from their first Qwest case that it would be
costly to pursue everyone who may have helped fudge the books.
They also learned to simplify, which is one reason there were no
accounting fraud charges against Nacchio, just insider trading
Springer, however, said this test case was a waste. "The
prosecution (against Nacchio) was delayed for years because the
government chased after people who shouldn't have been chased,"
But at least Nacchio's case ended with a conviction. "Anything
less than a conviction would have been disappointing to Tom
Hall," Springer said.
After his plea agreement, Hall moved from Cherry Hills to
Houston. Stigmatized by Qwest, he had trouble finding work. To
make ends meet, he and his wife sold everything they could.
They even traded antiques that they bought at estate sales on
"The things that we had bought meant nothing to us," Ann Hall
said. "The house, the furniture, our collections of things.
What was really important was our family and that we were
Yet the trial took its toll. Tom lay awake at night worried
he'd never be able to support his family again. "His family
came first, and his reputation as a businessman came second,"
Hall said. "He was not prepared for everything that followed
By the time he found work, he had developed a brain tumor.
Perhaps the stress of it all led to this fatal condition -- at
least that is what his wife wonders about now.
"After his trial, we all felt Tom was vindicated," she said,
"but there was a spark that went out of Tom."
Al Lewis' column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays.
Respond to him at denverpostbloghouse.com/lewis, 303-954-1967 or