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Nacchio wants venue change
Defense says "reviled" former Qwest CEO can't receive fair trial in Denver. The feds say the motion in the shares-fraud case will be fought, while his team alleges damaging leaks were made to the media.
By Greg Griffin, Staff Writer
Denver Post
Wednesday, May 3, 2006

Former Qwest chief executive Joe Nacchio is "among the most reviled figures in recent Denver history" and cannot receive a fair trial here, his attorneys said this week.

They notified the court they will seek a change of venue -- not unexpected given the coverage his case has received and similar efforts by other prominent white-collar defendants.

A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office said the government opposes a change of venue.

Venue changes are difficult to obtain.  Former Enron executives Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling tried unsuccessfully to move their trial, now in progress, out of Houston.

"Chances are it won't get any traction," said Houston lawyer Chris Bebel, a former federal prosecutor, of the Nacchio effort.  "It's something that routinely happens in cases like this."

But in addressing the venue issue, Nacchio's defense team continued its strategy of attacking the government's tactics.

In filings made in federal court Monday, his lawyers accused the government of leaking information to the media.  They say the leaks resulted in Nacchio's being accosted by reporters at Denver International Airport on Dec. 19 and the next morning at the FBI's downtown office.

Nacchio's attorneys -- Herbert Stern of New Jersey and John Richilano of Denver -- are seeking communications between the government and the media that might support the allegation.  Bebel said they're unlikely to get any.

"The government twice tipped off the press as to Mr. Nacchio's expected whereabouts, well knowing the inflammatory publicity that would ensue, because no one else had the information to give to the press," Nacchio's attorneys said.

They also accused U.S. marshals of improperly detaining Nacchio after he posted a $2 million bond Dec. 20, then "parading" him into the courtroom -- "in handcuffs, coatless, tieless and beltless" -- when he should have been free.

Also in Monday's filings, Nacchio's defense team asked U.S. District Judge Edward Nottingham to push the trial back to June 2007.  Nottingham has said he hopes to start the trial before the end of this year.

Nacchio's counsel said the case is far too complex to try this year and that the venue issue alone could take several months to resolve.

A grand jury indicted Nacchio on Dec. 19 on charges that he sold more than $100 million in Qwest shares in early 2001 while hiding from the public the company's dire financial condition.  Nacchio denies the charges and seeks to have them dismissed.

Staff writer Greg Griffin can be reached at 303-820-1241 or