The Association of U S West Retirees



"I" is for irony, cellmate
By Al Lewis, Dow Jones Newswires
Denver Post
Monday, October 27, 2008

It's getting tougher to say who might end up in prison first, former Qwest Communications International Inc. CEO Joe Nacchio or the federal judge who slapped him with a six-year sentence on insider-trading charges.

Nacchio remains free on bond pending a successful appeal of his April 2007 conviction, but his appellate victory remains under review and could be reversed.

Meanwhile, the now-former Chief Judge Edward W. Nottingham of Denver's U.S. District Court is gaining ground in a race to the pokey.

Nottingham, who was appointed by President George H.W. Bush in 1989, sent his resignation letter to President George W. Bush on Tuesday amid investigations into his alleged judicial misconduct.

A statement from the judge's attorney said Nottingham is "remorseful . . . embarrassed and ashamed . . . and sincerely apologizes to the public and judiciary."

Nacchio's trial put Nottingham in the national spotlight with the highest-profile case of his 19-year career.

Then Nottingham's third wife revealed in divorce court that he'd run up a $3,000 tab in one night at a Denver strip club.

Nottingham testified that he was too drunk to remember how he'd blown all this loot, as if he'd never smirked at defendants using this same line in his own courtroom.

Then came an allegation that Nottingham surfed porn sites on a laptop computer at his bench.  And another that he frequented prostitutes.  And then another that he menaced a woman in a wheelchair who confronted him for illegally parking in a handicapped parking space at a Walgreens.

These antics mostly earned him snickers and the nickname "Judge Naughty."  Many observers opined that Nottingham would not lose his career over a hooker as former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer did.  Federal judges are appointed for life.  Spitzer was elected by a popular vote.

The latest allegations, first reported by Deborah Sherman of Denver's NBC affiliate 9News, are stickier:  That a former prostitute alleged to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals on Oct. 10 that Nottingham threatened her and asked her to lie to investigators about his payments for sex.

This could be an obstruction-of-justice charge waiting to happen, the kind of thing that sent first-timer Martha Stewart to Camp Cupcake.

"I suspect that in resigning, he will end up terminating the investigation," said University of Denver law professor Jay Brown.  "I suspect that's what he's trying to do."

For now, Nottingham has defused threats of potential impeachment hearings.  U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar began expressing his concerns as early as March and more recently called for Nottingham's resignation.

Nottingham is the only man I have ever met who could make me feel sorry for Nacchio.

During the trial, Nottingham constantly belittled Nacchio's attorneys.  He even lamented to the jury about having to take a Passover break so that Nacchio's lawyers could go eat their matzo.  Then during sentencing, Nottingham berated Nacchio with a bizarre diatribe on morality and the laws of God and man.

Nacchio won his reversal on other grounds, but the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals is now reconsidering its reversal after a rare en banc hearing, where the full appellate panel reviews the decision of three appellate judges.  Nacchio could be sent to prison in the weeks that follow this pending decision.

Nottingham, meanwhile, has yet to be charged with a crime.

Yet somehow I keep imagining them Naughty and Nacchio in the same cell.  With all they'd have to say to each other, they could sure pass the time.

Al Lewis: 201-938-5266 or