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Supreme Court won’t hear Nacchio’s case; resentencing ahead

Denver Business Journal - by Greg Avery

Monday, October 5, 2009, 9:08am MDT  |  Modified: Tuesday, October 6, 2009, 9:39am

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday denied ex-Qwest CEO Joe Nacchio’s petition to have his case heard and possibly overturned by the justices.

The imprisoned executive sought to reverse a 19-felony insider trading conviction handed to him by a federal jury in Denver in April 2007.

A jury found Nacchio improperly sold Qwest Communications International Inc. stock in early 2001 while keeping quiet about an expected drop-off in business for the Denver-based telecom later that year.

The former executive began serving his prison sentence in Pennsylvania this spring.

Monday’s denial by the nation’s highest court doesn’t completely end Nacchio’s criminal case.

In July, the Denver-based 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered Nacchio resentenced, which is likely to mean a shorter prison term and smaller financial penalties for his insider-trading conviction.

Nacchio’s attorney, Maureen Mahoney, challenged his six-year sentence, $19 million in fines and $52 million in forfeiture on the grounds that former federal court Judge Edward Nottingham incorrectly calculated Nacchio’s gains from the 2001 stock trades that led to his prosecution.

The appellate court ruled that the sentence penalized Nacchio for the natural appreciation of Qwest shares at the time, not just the benefit gained from having inside information.

A smaller financial gain from the trades would, under federal sentencing guidelines, mean fewer months in prison for Nacchio.

Nacchio’s appeal brief argued that his profit from insider trading should have been calculated at $1.8 million, an amount that would have imprisoned him for between nearly 3-1/2 years and just over four years.

The Securities & Exchange Commission is also pursuing a civil lawsuit against Nacchio and other former Qwest executives. That case is expected to go to trial in early 2010.