is, Joe: Feds didn't tip us
By Al Lewis, Staff Columnist
Friday, May 5, 2006
Joe Nacchio wants to know.
Where did 9News and Denver Post reporters get the tip that
the former Qwest chief executive would step off United
Airlines Flight 1229 from Newark, N.J., at Denver
International Airport on Dec. 19? Apparently, Nacchio
expected more privacy as he traveled here to surrender on
insider-trading charges to which he pleaded not guilty.
In motions filed this week, Nacchio's attorneys accuse
government officials of tipping off the media. But, as far
as I know, the tip came from elsewhere.
"When Mr. Nacchio and his attorney exited the plane around
7:30 p.m. MST, a reporter and photographer were waiting at
the gate -- inside the federally secured 'ticketed
passengers only' zone of the airport -- and proceeded to
literally chase them through the airport, shouting questions
all the while," Nacchio's attorneys said in the motions
filed this week. "The reporter used a cellphone to announce
... progress and directional changes. Television crews were
thus able to corner and film Mr. Nacchio while the
now-reinforced media contingent shouted frenzied questions."
I went back to look at what The Post reported. These
"frenzied questions" included: What are you doing in town?
To which Nacchio answered "skiing." And: Why did you fly
commercial? To which he said, "I always flew commercial."
Nacchio now claims this surprise interview diminishes his
chances of receiving a fair trial in Denver. He's also
unhappy about another purported "media trap," set the next
day, inside the Denver office building of the FBI.
"It was while waiting there that (Nacchio and his attorneys)
were again accosted and peppered with questions, this time
by a female reporter who had been passed through Department
of Justice security and, somehow, knew that Mr. Nacchio and
his counsel would be at the FBI's offices at that specific
time," the motions said.
Post reporter Beth Potter went to the FBI office -- a public
building -- looking for Nacchio. She was one of several
reporters posted at likely places where he would be, and,
well, there he was.
Yet Nacchio's attorneys are demanding government documents
reflecting communications with Denver media Dec. 19 and 20.
The request will support a change-of-venue motion Nacchio
has said he plans to file. Nacchio wants to move the trial
to another city, arguing that the local jury pool has been
tainted by the media.
"No one could have predicted that the basis for such a
motion would be exacerbated by the prejudicial pretrial
publicity caused by the government's apparent alerting of
the press about Mr. Nacchio's arrival in Denver," his
Nacchio's lawyers also said they hired a renowned expert on
trial venue changes, Edward Bronson, who has worked more
than 100 cases.
Bronson recently recommended a venue change for the ongoing
Enron trial in Houston. He lost that one, which leads me to
wonder: If Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling can be tried in
Houston, why can't Nacchio be tried in Denver?
So far, Nacchio's defense seems unnecessarily aggressive
and, at the same time, self-defeating. "It cannot be
disputed that Mr. Nacchio has been among the most reviled
figures in recent Denver history," his attorneys argue.
They accuse prosecutors of misconduct. They claim U.S.
marshals falsely imprisoned Nacchio. They claim Nacchio's
indictment may cause him to lose his national security
clearance, which he needs to access documents for his
defense. Nacchio argues that when he sold his stock, he
believed Qwest was about to get a boost from secret
I don't know what difference it makes if government
officials tipped us off to Nacchio's arrival, but I can say
that they were not helpful to us on those two days.
Getting on the "federally secured" concourse at DIA didn't
require their help anyway. Post reporter Tom McGhee and
photographer John Leyba simply bought refundable airline
But how did they know which gate?
Well, somebody saw him boarding a flight to Denver at the
Newark airport and called the Denver media. Turns out
Nacchio is reviled in New Jersey, too.
Al Lewis' column appears
Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Respond to him at
denverpostbloghouse.com/lewis, 303-820-1967 or