The Association of U S West Retirees



Nacchio's defense team hires spin doctor
Damage control expert had role in HealthSouth case
By Jeff Smith
Rocky Mountain News
Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Veteran Denver public relations consultant and sometimes controversial damage control expert Charlie Russell has been hired by Joe Nacchio's defense team.  Russell, who has four decades of experience, helped improve the image of former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy in advance of Scrushy's fraud trial in Birmingham, Ala., in 2005.  Scrushy was acquitted.

But a woman later claimed that Russell paid her $2,500 before the trial to write articles favorable to Scrushy in a weekly newspaper serving the black community in Birmingham.  Russell acknowledged giving the woman the money but said it was for future community relations work.

Russell said his work on the Nacchio case will be to simply help the media.

"I'm strictly handling media requests," Russell said Monday.  "I was way, way more involved with (the Scrushy case)."

Jeff Dorschner, spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office for Colorado, declined to comment about Russell's hiring.

Russell came aboard the Scrushy case in early 2004 at a time public opinion seemed to be tilting against his client, with reports about such extravagances as collections of art, antique cars and boats.

Russell advised Scrushy and his wife to host a cable television show that promoted a squeaky-clean image, with leaders from churches and nonprofits as guests.

"My part in the trial was to get (potential jurors) to suspend their belief in his guilt to whatever degree that was possible," Russell told the Rocky Mountain News in 2005.

During the trial, Scrushy often walked to the courthouse, accompanied by supporters carrying Bibles.

There are similarities between the Scrushy and Nacchio cases.

Nacchio's image is seen as a challenge to picking an impartial jury, with his attorneys already unsuccessful in their bid to move the trial out of state.

Even while at Qwest, Nacchio was criticized for never moving to Colorado, instead commuting from his home in New Jersey, and for netting more than $200 million from stock sales.  Recent news reports have noted the Nacchios live in a $9.5 million mansion on the Florida coast, in addition to their $3 million New Jersey home.

Nacchio had been without a public relations spokesman since switching attorneys in late 2005.  Under his previous legal team, Nacchio's spokeswoman was Marcia Horowitz of Rubenstein Associates, a politically connected firm recently profiled in The New Yorker magazine.

Some high-profile clients of Charlie Russell's

  The defense team for former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy, who was accused of orchesting a $2.7 billion fraud. Scrushy was acquitted at trial.

  John and Patsy Ramsey, parents of murder victim JonBenet Ramsey

  Cigarette maker Philip Morris

  Building material manufacturer Louisiana-Pacific, when it was under indictment or 303-954-5155,2777,DRMN_23910_5380574,00.html