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Latham & Watkins appellate chief Maureen Mahoney couldn’t get the full 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn the insider trading conviction of former Qwest CEO Joseph Nacchio last winter, but on Friday she won a ruling that will at least shorten Nacchio’s prison sentence (pdf). In a 59-page opinion, a three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit concluded that the district court erred in sentencing Nacchio to six years on the basis of alleged insider trading gains of $28 million. The court reversed the sentence and remanded Nacchio to federal district court for resentencing. He could face as little as 3 1/2 years.

The ruling continues Nacchio’s long roller-coaster ride through the criminal justice system. As we chronicled in a 2007 American Lawyer story, Nacchio was first indicted on sweeping fraud charges back in 2003. But after the government stumbled in its first Qwest trial, a new prosecution team stepped in with a tighter, more focused theory of the case against Nacchio. In 2007, a federal jury in Denver convicted the onetime CEO on 19 counts of insider trading. In 2008, a divided panel of the 10th Circuit held that certain expert testimony had been improperly excluded and ordered a retrial for Naccho, but then, on en banc rehearing, the 10th Circuit reinstated his conviction.

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