A three-judge panel hearing an appeal by former Qwest Communications chief executive Joe Nacchio zeroed in on a decision by a trial judge to effectively block a law professor from testifying on Nacchio's behalf.
Fighting Nacchio's six-year prison sentence and $52 million fine, Nacchio's attorneys argued on his behalf Tuesday in the 10th U.S. Circuit in Denver. According to media reports, the judges also queried defense and prosecuting attorneys on the importance of alleged insider information that Nacchio had. Nacchio, who was Qwest's chief executive from 1997 to 2002, did not attend the hearing.
Nacchio sold Qwest stock at high prices before it plunged and he was charged with withholding information on the company's weakening finances until he had sold stock.
Nacchio's defense attorneys argued that trial judge Edward Nottingham effectively kept law professor Daniel Fischel from testifying on Nacchio's behalf during the jury trial in which the executive was convicted. Nacchio's attorneys also maintained that Judge Nottingham's instructions to the jury were wrong.
Prosecutor Stephen Oestreicher countered at Tuesday's hearing that Nacchio had a "golden rule" against saying anything that would damage Qwest's stock price. Throughout the case, prosecutors have argued that Nacchio withheld information that would damage Qwest's stock price while he was selling his stock.
Nacchio and additional former Qwest executives still face a civil lawsuit charging them with improperly reporting billions in revenue; the civil case was filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission.