of crime to guide sentencing of Nacchio
Nottingham likely to stay within guidelines today
By Greg Griffin, Staff Writer
Friday, July 27, 2007
When Joe Nacchio is given his prison sentence in federal court
today, much will ride on the financial value that a judge
assigns to his crime.
If U.S. District Judge Edward Nottingham accepts prosecutors'
argument that Nacchio's crime robbed investors of $52 million,
he is likely to sentence the former Qwest chief executive to
seven years and three months. That's the amount the government
But if Nottingham agrees with Nacchio's attorneys that the
government has overstated the financial impact of the crime,
jail time could be lower.
Nacchio's attorneys have argued that the 19 counts of insider
trading for which he was convicted cost investors $1.8 million.
They say his jail sentence, if any, should therefore be far
shorter. If Nottingham were to accept the $1.8 million figure,
the federal sentencing guidelines call for up to four years in
"Under the federal sentencing guidelines, the court has some
discretion to go either way, to depart upward or downward," said
Tony Leffert, a former federal prosecutor now at Robinson,
Waters & O'Dorisio.
Other factors could come into play, such as whether Nacchio
takes responsibility for the crime or shows contrition. His
likely appeal of the conviction may keep Nacchio from going too
far in that direction.
In addition to the positions staked out by attorneys on either
side, Nottingham will have the recommendation of the court's
probation office. Its detailed presentencing investigative
report -- which will brief the judge on Nacchio's background and
financial status, among other things -- could recommend a jail
sentence that differs from the prosecution's.
Each recommendation is based upon interpretations of the
sentencing guidelines. Under those guidelines, each crime is
given a base number, and points are added depending on the
severity of the crime. Prosecutors arrived at a sentence of 70
to 87 months by placing the amount of Nacchio's alleged
ill-gotten gains at $52 million.
Judges typically don't stray far, if at all, from the
guidelines. A sentence that falls far from the recommended
range can open the door for appeal.
Experts say that Nottingham is likely to stay within federal
guidelines for sentencing but that he has leeway in interpreting
the severity of the crime, Nacchio's remorse and other factors.
Nacchio's attorneys have raised the issue of the health of
family members as a potential mitigating factor in his
sentencing. The family members are not named in the filings.
Thursday, prosecutors asked Nottingham to deny Nacchio's request
for bail pending appeal, arguing that some of the issues the
defense raised in their motion were "peccadilloes, not the
building blocks for an appeal."
"The United States requests that the court ... require Joseph
Nacchio to begin serving his prison sentence immediately,"
prosecutor Cliff Stricklin wrote in the filing Thursday.
Staff writer Andy Vuong contributed to this report.
Staff writer Greg Griffin can be reached at 303-954-1241 or