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Lawyer: Nacchio isolated, denied medicine on trip


The Washington Post

June 13, 2010


The Associated Press

DENVER -- Former Qwest CEO Joe Nacchio spent eight days in solitary confinement, had no visitors for six weeks and was denied his medication for days during his round trip between a Pennsylvania prison camp and a Denver courtroom, which included long stops at several federal prisons along the way.

Nacchio was convicted of insider trading in 2007.

His return trip from Denver to Federal Correctional Institution Schuykill in Minersville, Pa., took 34 days, ending June 7. His court hearing in Denver was May 4.

Steve Blando of the U.S. Marshals Service said Nacchio had been classified as a "low-priority transfer" for his trip back to Pennsylvania, meaning other inmates got priority on flights in the Justice Prisoner and Alien Transportation System. The marshals' prisoner transportation system, fictionalized in the 1997 movie "Con Air," transports about 350,000 inmates between prisons and courts each year.

Blando said prisoners who are on their way to a court hearing or who present a security risk get top priority. Long trips for prisoners aren't uncommon, he said.

"It's just a lot of logistics involved," Blando said. "We try to operate the system as efficiently as possibly, but it's not quick."

Sean Berkowitz, a Chicago-based attorney who filed paperwork to expedite Nacchio's return to prison camp, did not immediately return a message.

U.S. District Judge Marcia Krieger in Denver is recalculating Nacchio's sentence of six years in prison, plus $71 million in fines and forfeitures, after an appeals court ruled the sentence was too harsh.

Nacchio had asked Krieger to allow him to skip his re-sentencing hearings, arguing he wanted to stay close to his family and traveling to Denver could take weeks as an inmate. If he couldn't skip his hearing, Nacchio asked to be temporarily released from prison so he could pay his own travel costs.

Prosecutors opposed the request and demanded Nacchio be at the hearing. In court documents, they said requiring his attendance met judicial goals such as promoting deterrence and respect for the law.

Krieger denied Nacchio's request to be released to travel but agreed to consider letting him skip his June re-sentencing hearing if he appeared in court for the May 4 hearing. Krieger said she wanted to see Nacchio to determine if his decision was informed and voluntary.

Nacchio had a shaved head and goatee and wore glasses and a khaki-colored inmate uniform at the May hearing.

"I've been held in solitary for eight of the last nine days," Nacchio told Krieger of his trip to Denver. "I haven't been able to communicate with my lawyer. ... I haven't been able to tell my wife where I was."

Krieger ruled Nacchio could skip his re-sentencing hearing and ordered he be transferred back to prison camp "as expeditiously as possible."

According to court records and Blando, Nacchio was transported from the courthouse to a federal prison in the Denver suburb of Englewood. He couldn't get on a weekly prisoner flight to Harrisburg, Pa., about 60 miles from the prison camp, because it was full.

After nine days at Englewood, Nacchio was transferred to a federal prison in Oklahoma City, where he spent 11 days. After an attorney contacted the marshals, Nacchio was put on a plane to Harrisburg, Pa., on May 24, but was taken off during a stop at Steward Air Force Base Newburgh, N.Y., and sent to a federal detention center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Berkowitz filed an emergency petition May 26 asking Krieger to order Nacchio be returned to prison camp by May 28, saying prison officials in New York denied Nacchio his medication for days and that the Brooklyn facility was a "higher-security and more dangerous facility" than the camp in Minersville, Pa.

Berkowitz also argued Nacchio had not been able to receive visitors for six weeks and said Nacchio would pay for prison officials to transport him to Pennsylvania.

Nacchio arrived at Schuykill on June 7, according to Blando, before the matter could move through court.

Nacchio was convicted in 2007 on 19 counts of insider trading based on allegations that he sold $52 million worth of stock in 2001 based on nonpublic information that Denver-based Qwest Communications International Inc. might miss its sales targets. He was acquitted of 23 counts of the same charge.