The Association of U S West Retirees



D.C. may take stronger role in Nacchio's case
Bill Leone will be replaced by Troy Eid as U.S. attorney for Colorado.
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 my life."

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.,2777,DRMN_23916_4909252.00.html