judge: No delays
Quit stalling, he tells attorneys for both sides
By Greg Griffin, Staff Writer
Friday, February 9, 2007
Blasting lawyers for behaving like "petulant children in a
sandbox," a federal judge on Thursday refused to delay the trial
of former Qwest chief executive Joe Nacchio.
U.S. District Judge Edward Nottingham set stringent deadlines
for the government to turn evidence over to the defense as the
March 19 trial approaches. He called a request by Nacchio's
attorneys to push the trial back 60 days "backhanded and lame."
Nacchio, who was forced from Qwest in mid-2002 after the Denver
phone company's stock plummeted, faces 42 counts of criminal
insider trading. Each count carries a potential prison sentence
of 10 years. The government claims Nacchio sold $100.8 million
in Qwest shares in early 2001 when he allegedly knew the
company's financial prospects were worse than publicly
Nacchio, 57, a New Jersey resident, has pleaded not guilty and
is free on bond.
Nacchio attorney Herbert Stern asked the judge in a filing
Tuesday to set the trial back two months and sanction
prosecutors for delays in turning over evidence to the defense.
The government responded in a filing that it is turning over
evidence as required, and as quickly as it can.
The two sides are quarreling about documents and interviews that
might assist in Nacchio's defense and that the government is
required to produce. They're also fighting over the production
of classified information that the government could use to rebut
Nacchio's claim that he knew of pending classified contracts
that made him optimistic about Qwest's fortunes when he sold his
"This seems to be just like petulant children in a sandbox
kicking sand at each other," Nottingham said of the filings
during Thursday's status conference. "You need to stop whining
and get on with the business of taking this case to trial."
He chastised prosecutors for agreeing to turn over evidence
promptly and then giving themselves 10 days to transcribe
"You've got 48 hours, not 10 days," he said.
Nottingham criticized Stern for requesting the 60-day delay at
the end of a 14-page filing and did not sanction prosecutors.
"The defense has made a backhanded and lame request for a
continuance. I see nothing in the record that would cause this
court to continue the trial," he said, noting that the court
already has begun sending summonses to prospective jurors.
Nottingham scheduled the next status conference for Feb. 23.
During the hearing, government attorney Leo Wise suggested that
prosecutors have evidence that will contradict at least some of
Nacchio's classified-contract claims. Nacchio's attorneys
produced documents showing communication between Qwest and a
secret government agency, which they said resulted in a
contract, Wise said.
"We went through the documents that were sent back and forth,
but there was no contract," Wise said.
Highlighting the secretive nature of the information involved in
the case, Nottingham and the attorneys spent about 15 minutes
discussing whether Nacchio's lawyers should be able to see a
filing made by the government for the judge's eyes only.
Nottingham ruled that they may not, judging that the information
does not appear to be material to the case and is too detailed
"The court is unwilling to assume this additional risk of
disclosure that could threaten the foreign relations and
national security of the country," he said.
Staff writer Greg Griffin
can be reached at 303-954-1241 or