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Ex-Qwest Chief Nacchio's Case Heads To The Jury

Opposing lawyers wrap up arguments in $101 million insider trading trial, as jury waits for the case.

The fate of former Qwest Communications chief executive Joseph Nacchio, and the $101 million of Qwest stock he sold during the height of the technology bubble, is going to a federal court jury in Denver, as opposing sides in Nacchio's trial wound up their arguments Wednesday.

The trial is the last major case involving top executive stock sales during the telecommunications and technology bubble and its collapse in 2001. Nacchio took over Qwest in 1997 as the bubble inflated, fueled in large part by overconfidence in the real and imaged possibilities of fiber cable and the Internet. In the criminal case, he is charged with illegally selling Qwest stock while, at the same time, praising the firm's future, even as the company's business began to slip dramatically.

Jury deliberations were expected to get under way at the conclusion of arguments.

Nacchio's lawyers have maintained his sales of Qwest stock were legal and he was optimistic about the company's future. Prosecutors have charged that Nacchio knew full well the firm was in trouble while he was selling his stock.

"This is a case about cheating," said Assistant U.S. Attorney James Hearty as he summed up the government's case for the jury last month. "He sold $100 million worth of Qwest stock when he knew about problems at Qwest -- problems that people outside Qwest did not know."

Nacchio's attorneys have countered that he sold the Qwest stock according to a schedule that was in place with Qwest founder Philip Anschutz and his decisions to sell did not involve any inside information.

A total of 42 counts of insider trading have been leveled against Nacchio; each one could carry a 10-year prison sentence, as well as fines sought by the government.

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