The Association of U S West Retirees



Nacchio witness, evidence lists shared
By Andy Vuong, Staff Writer
Denver Post
Friday, March 2, 2007

Documents detailing the witnesses and evidence that prosecutors may use during the criminal insider-trading trial of former Qwest chief executive officer Joe Nacchio will be kept from public view until the trial begins March 19.

Prosecutors submitted their preliminary witness list to defense attorneys and the court on Thursday after providing the evidence list last week. The defense is required to produce its evidence list March 15 and its witness list March 16.

Such lists should only be "exchanged between the parties," U.S. District Judge Edward Nottingham said during a hearing Thursday morning.

A clerk in Nottingham's chambers later said that the lists will be made available to the public on the first day of trial, which will be held in federal court in Denver.

Two former federal prosecutors offered mixed opinions on the court keeping the witness lists under seal.

Greg Goldberg, a lawyer with Holland & Hart, said it is "highly unusual."

He said Nottingham's request to have the lists submitted weeks, instead of days, before the trial may have played a role in the decision to keep them under wraps.  That way potential witnesses can have some "privacy, even though they are compelled to testify at a high-publicity trial," he said.

Attorney Rick Kornfeld said it is not unusual in his experience for witness lists and exhibits in criminal cases to be exchanged by the parties but not formally filed in the docket.

He said it is unusual for the judge to require a list of witnesses from prosecutors nearly three weeks before trial.  Nottingham may have decided to do so to keep control over the details of a complex case, Kornfeld said.

After reviewing the government's list of potential exhibits and witnesses, Nottingham said prosecutors could probably try the case in "eight days or less."

Prosecutor Colleen Conry, however, estimated that the government would take 12 to 15 days.

Nacchio has pleaded not guilty to 42 counts of illegal insider trading.  His trial could last up to eight weeks at four court days per week.

The government's witness list likely includes former Qwest chief financial officer Robin Szeliga, former president Afshin Mohebbi and at least one Qwest retiree, among others.

In June 2005, Szeliga pleaded guilty to one count of illegal insider trading.  Prosecutors have said Szeliga is in a position to provide "indispensable testimony" in the Nacchio case.

Mohebbi has been granted immunity from prosecution in return for testimony that could implicate Nacchio, sources have told The Denver Post.

Curtis Kennedy, an attorney for the Association of US West Retirees, said he's given prosecutors names of about 20 retirees who can share their story of financial losses during the Nacchio era.  Kennedy expects one or two will testify.

Also Thursday, Nottingham denied a request by Nacchio attorney Herbert Stern to submit written questionnaires to potential jurors.  He said that would be time-consuming and could be overkill.

Staff writer Greg Griffin contributed to this report.

Staff writer Andy Vuong can be reached at 303-954-1209 or