The Association of U S West Retirees



No need to move Qwest trial
Denver Post Editorial
Wednesday, August 2, 2006

Former Qwest chief executive Joe Nacchio wants to go home.  He describes himself as among the "most reviled" figures in recent Denver history and is asking a federal judge to transfer his upcoming trial to New Jersey, where he says he'll find a less poisoned atmosphere.

Nacchio faces 42 counts of insider trading, and there has been, he says, far too much pre-trial publicity.

Consider us skeptical, but his request probably has nothing to do with the fact that his lawyer, Herbert J. Stern, was formerly a federal judge and prosecutor in New Jersey. The New Jersey U.S. attorney calls Stern a "mentor," and last year he handed Stern an assignment to investigate fraud allegations at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.

Given those connections, we wonder whether Nacchio's maneuver is just an effort to get home-court advantage.

Nacchio says in court pleadings that a Denver trial would mean his family would have to live away from their New Jersey home to attend the trial.  That would add to his "personal burden."

How about the personal burdens of Denver-area retirees who might want to attend the trial, which will determine culpability in an episode that led to the decimation of their retirement funds?

Nacchio is accused of corporate fleecing of the highest order.  Prosecutors say he sold $100.8 million in Qwest stock in 2001, even as he hid the company's financial troubles.  Thousands of employees lost their jobs as Qwest, Colorado's largest company, nearly went bankrupt.

It's a high-interest case, and an important one.  Yes, people are going to be aware of it.  But if Enron's Ken Lay could get a fair trial in Houston, headquarters of a company where 4,000 employees lost their jobs and many their life savings, we're confident an impartial jury can be found here.

Indeed, Nacchio doesn't have nearly the name recognition of Ken Lay.

Jurors called to serve in Nacchio's case will be asked about any preconceived notions of Nacchio's guilt or innocence.  The presiding judge, Edward Nottingham, is an experienced hand who is in line to be the circuit's next chief judge.  There is no reason to think the process won't work for Nacchio as it has for any number of other high-profile defendants.

This is where the criminal acts are said to have occurred.  This is where the trial should be.

Editorials alone express The Denver Post's opinion. The members of The Post editorial board are William Dean Singleton, chairman and publisher; Jonathan Wolman, editorial page editor; Bob Ewegen, deputy editorial page editor; Todd Engdahl, assistant editorial page editor; Peter G. Chronis, Dan Haley, Julia Martinez and Penelope Purdy, editorial writers; Mike Keefe, cartoonist; Barbara Ellis, news editor; Cohen Peart, letters editor; Fred Brown and Barrie Hartman, associate members.