The Association of U S West Retirees



U.S. Seeks to Shut Part of Qwest Hearing
By Sandy Shore, AP
Thursday, August 24, 2006

DENVER (AP) - Prosecutors have asked a judge to bar the public from part of a motions hearing set Friday in the insider trading case against former Qwest Chief Executive Joseph Nacchio because it could involve classified government information.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Bill Leone said in a motion filed Friday that attorneys for both sides and the judge should privately discuss documents that fall under the Classified Information Protection Act.  He said Nacchio's attorneys agreed with his motion.

The Denver Post on Wednesday filed an objection to the closed-door request, arguing that the public has extensive interest in the case against Nacchio and other lawsuits involving Qwest Communications International Inc.

"The parties can set forth their contentions regarding the relevancy and admissibility of the classified information the defendant intends to proffer at trial without disclosing the content of any classified information," Post attorney Steven Zansberg said.

"Under these circumstances, it is inappropriate and, indeed, unconstitutional for the court to close to the public the entirety of a pretrial criminal hearing, such as this one, at which the conduct of government prosecutors and the court are squarely at issue," he wrote.

U.S. attorney's office spokesman Jeff Dorschner said the portion of the hearing that the government sought to close would deal just with classified information.

U.S. District Judge Edward Nottingham also is expected to take up several other motions at the hearing, including Nacchio's request to move the trial to New Jersey because of pretrial publicity and his motion to dismiss the charges.

Defense attorneys have said Nacchio had access to classified information about national security work as part of Qwest's business dealings with the government that may have given the former chief executive office hope for the company's future.

Nottingham has ruled that attorneys for both sides will have access to any classified documents after going through security clearances but the information gleaned from the documents and used at trial will remain sealed.

In a related development, Assistant U.S. Attorney Cliff Stricklin, who served on the team prosecuting former Enron Corp. executives, was appointed Wednesday as lead prosecutor in the Nacchio case.

Stricklin, 42, replaced Bill Leone, who served as U.S. attorney in Colorado from December 2004 until this month, when Troy Eid was appointed permanently to the job.

A former judge, Stricklin was one of four attorneys on the government's team in the trial against former Enron executives Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling.

In addition to the criminal case, Nacchio is one of several former executives accused by the Securities and Exchange Commission of orchestrating a financial fraud that forced Qwest to restate billions of dollars in revenue.

The SEC has said fraud between April 1999 and March 2002 allowed Qwest to improperly report approximately $3 billion in revenue that helped clear the way for its 2000 acquisition of the Baby Bell, U S West.  The revenue was later restated.