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Judge pushes Nacchio prosecutors to turn over evidence

Judge pushes Nacchio prosecutors to turn over evidence

With a stern reminder that Joe Nacchio's trial is just weeks away, a federal judge ordered prosecutors Friday to step up efforts to provide some key evidence to the former Qwest chief executive's attorneys.
U.S. District Judge Edward Nottingham set deadlines for evidence to be turned over and told attorneys to file status reports by Feb. 6. "This case is going to be tried on March 19, folks," Nottingham said.
Nacchio, who is free on bail, is accused of selling $101 million (euro78 million) worth of stock in 2001 based on inside knowledge Qwest Communications International Inc. would be unable to meet revenue targets.
Nacchio is charged with 42 counts, each carrying a penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a $1 million (euro780,000) fine, and has pleaded not guilty.
At issue in Friday's hearing was evidence that could be deemed favorable to Nacchio that prosecutors are required by law to provide the defense.
Nacchio's attorneys have contended government attorneys have been slow to deliver some evidence, citing a report on a witness delivered two months after the interview was conducted.
"It's the witness interviews that are of concern," Nacchio attorney John Richiliano said. "It's just a very, very serious issue now."
Prosecutor Cliff Stricklin said government attorneys are still interviewing witnesses. "We're doing the best we can," he said.
Another problem stems from classified documents that defense attorneys say they need. Prosecutors said the evidence-exchange process had been slowed because some of the documents fall under the Classified Information Procedures Act, which sets guidelines for viewing secret government documents.
Prosecutors said they must coordinate the documents with federal agencies that are involved.
Defense lawyers have said Nacchio believed Qwest would get hundreds of millions of dollars worth of classified government contracts that gave him hope for the company's financial future.
The Classified Information Procedures Act was enacted several decades ago to counter a strategy used by defendants charged with spying who would threaten to expose national secrets unless the charges were dropped.
In order to view the contracts and determine their relevance at trial, attorneys for both sides and the judge received Justice Department security clearances.
In a related development, Nottingham agreed to withhold from the public a questionnaire that will be sent to prospective jurors as an initial step in the jury selection process.
The questionnaire will help the attorneys and the judge eliminate candidates who may be unable to serve or disqualified because of bias or an association with Qwest. Nottingham said the questionnaire will be made public at the start of the selection process in court.
Separately, Nacchio also is one of several former Qwest executives accused by the Securities and Exchange Commission in a civil case alleging they orchestrated a financial fraud that forced the company to restate billions of dollars in revenue. That case is pending.
Experts say Nacchio's legal fees in both the civil and criminal cases could hit a combined $75 million (euro58 million), based on other high-profile corporate executive trials, The Denver Post reported Friday. Qwest bylaws require the company to pay those expenses, company spokesman Bob Toevs told the newspaper.
Under the bylaws, the company must pay legal fees for current and former officers involved in criminal or civil legal proceedings because of their work with the company, Toevs said.
Nacchio's severance agreement also spells out Qwest's requirement to pick up his legal bills, according to the newspaper.


Updated : 2021-02-27 00:47 GMT+08:00