DENVER (CBS4) – Former Qwest CEO Joe Nacchio lashed out at those who put him in federal prison for insider trading in a rare interview.
Nacchio, who was released after serving 4 1/2 years and paying millions of dollars in restitution, spoke near his home in Florida with CBS4’s Rick Sallinger. It is the only interview Nacchio has granted with a Colorado reporter to date since his time behind bars.
Nacchio showed no remorse in the interview and explained why he now has a shaved head and goatee.
“I was a political prisoner. I figured I ought to look like one,” he told Sallinger.
Nacchio says he now has clearance to talk about the defense that he couldn’t use at his trial. He says his refusal to cooperate with a National Security Agency surveillance project is what led to his downfall.
Nacchio predicted a bright future for Qwest when he was CEO of the Colorado-based telecommunications company. But its stock crashed in 2001.
“The anger and frustration directed at me was how the government played the population of Denver. That’s why I couldn’t get a fair trial,” he said.
That frustration remains today for the many retirees whose accounts have evaporated while Naccho sold his stock and made millions.
“He should he be (apologizing) but he’s an arrogant man and arrogant men very seldom take responsibilty for what they have done,” said Mimi Hull of the U.S. West Retirees Association.
Sallinger commented to Nacchio at one point during the interview that “It doesn’t seem that there will be any apology.”
“There’s nothing to apologize (for) Rick,” Nacchio said. “The people say to me ‘Why don’t you apologize?’ What am I apologizing for? Not breaking the law?”
Nacchio was convicted on 19 counts of insider trading.
“He took a lot of money that he shouldn’t have taken and he needs to own up for it,” former U.S. attorney Troy Eid.
Nacchio believes responsibility lies with the federal government. It goes back to a 2001 meeting, he says, at NSA headquarters near Washington.
“I refused to allow Qwest to participate or personally participate in what I believe was an illegal surveillance activity,” he said.
Declassified documents marked SECRET hint of big government projects on which Nacchio says Qwest was then blackballed. The court ruled he was not allowed to use that information in his defense.
“Did you want to testify?” Sallinger asked Nacchio.
“Absolutely. But here is what I wasn’t willing to do. I wasn’t willing to testify with one arm behind my back. In other words, I wasn’t willing to testify only to things the government was going to allow me to testify about,” he said.
Nacchio believes he didn’t get a fair trial before Judge Edward Nottingham.
“What I want, if you wanted to be honest, what I really deserve is a new trial not in the 10th Circuit Court,” he said. “I had a kangaroo court in the Nottingham court.”
Nottingham later resigned from the federal bench in a sex scandal.
Nacchio’s venom is not limited to the judiciary. He feels the Qwest founder, billionaire Phillip Anschutz, abandoned him.
“The only thing Phil really worries about is is his money. For example, he’s never even contacted me. So he’s probably too busy counting,” he said.
In the meantime while Qwest shareholders retirements may not be what they hoped, Nacchio is living well.
“They took $65 million, but they didn’t take everything. I’m quite well off,” he said.
Nacchio’s account of the NSA meeting he referred to is now being disputed by a former Qwest employee who was with him at the time.
Nacchio is now helping prisoners, advising startup companies, writing a book and fighting the federal criminal justice system.