take stronger role in Nacchio's case
Bill Leone will be replaced by Troy Eid as U.S. attorney for
By Jeff Smith
Rocky Mountain News
Friday, August 11, 2006
Outgoing U.S. Attorney for
Colorado bill Leone said he plans to go back to private
practice -- which likely means Washington, D.C., will take a
more active role in the criminal prosecution of former Qwest
Chief Executive Joe Nacchio. "I have advised the new U.S.
attorney (for Colorado) and the department that I would like
to return to private practice as soon as it's feasible,"
Leone said in a telephone interview Thursday. "I've
volunteered and agreed to stay involved in the (Nacchio)
case as long as necessary to make it an effective transition
and make sure nothing falls through the cracks."
In June, President Bush appointed Troy Eid, a former legal
counsel to Gov. Bill Owens, to be the next U.S. attorney for
Colorado, and Eid is expected to be sworn into the job as
soon as today.
Leone, 49, has been the lead federal prosecutor on the Qwest
case since 2002 when he was assistant U.S. attorney for
Colorado. Leone became interim U.S. attorney for Colorado
when John Suthers left the post in December 2004 to become
state attorney general.
Just two months ago, the government lost its No. 2
prosecutor on the Nacchio case when Mike Koenig of the
Justice Department's Washington-based criminal fraud section
also went back to private practice.
Despite the departures, Leone said he thinks the Nacchio
case remains in "great shape and I'm confident that between
our office and the Department of Justice the case is going
to be left in good hands."
Nacchio faces 42 counts of insider trading in connection
with selling $101 million of Qwest stock in the first five
months of 2001 while allegedly knowing the company's
financial condition was deteriorating. He has pleaded not
guilty and is attempting to change the venue of the case to
New Jersey, claiming the local press has made him "among the
most reviled figures in recent Denver history."
Assistant U.S. Attorney for Colorado James Hearty remains on
the prosecution team and recently was joined by Department
of Justice trial attorneys Leo Wise and Colleen Conry. Wise
was formerly on the government's tobacco litigation task
force, and Conry is with Justice's fraud division.
Jeff Dorschner, spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in
Colorado, cautioned that the final trial team hasn't been
determined. The trial date also hasn't been set, with the
next hearing scheduled for Aug. 25.
The Qwest case got off to a rough start in 2004, when a jury
acquitted two former midlevel executives and was hung on
fraud charges against two others. Those two eventually
struck plea deals with the government, and two higher
executives, including former chief financial officer Robin
Szeliga, have since pleaded guilty to one felony charge
each. The stiffest sentence so far has been two years of
probation, six months of house arrest and a $250,000 fine.
"I'm really proud of our efforts to date and our results to
date," Leone said. He characterized his work as U.S.
attorney as the "most gratifying and rewarding experience of
Eid said he respected Leone's decision to return to private
life and his commitment to serve on the Qwest prosecution
team as long as needed.
"Bill Leone is a gifted attorney and one of Colorado's truly
great public servants," Eid said in a statement. "Bill
always gives 110 percent and his leadership of the Qwest
team is a legacy in which all Coloradans can take pride."
Leone said he doesn't have a new job lined up.. "It's fair
to say that over the course of the next weeks and months I'm
going to be reviewing my options to see what makes sense for
me and my family," he said.