Breaking Glad

Former Qwest CEO Joseph Nacchio served a 64-month prison sentence that recently ended with his release. (Nacchio served time following conviction on 19 counts of insider trading. The convictions were reversed by a panel of the Tenth Circuit and reinstated by the full court.) The Wall Street Journal reports on Nacchio’s time behind bars in “Tales from a white-collar prison sentence” by Dionne Searcey (behind the Journal’s jealously guarded paywall, with an accessible post by Searcey here). Searcey got the first post-prison interview with Nacchio.

It’s an interesting article. One of the subjects touched on is the transformation of Nacchio’s physical appearance in prison. Nacchio thinks he has come to resemble actor Edward Norton; I think he bears an uncanny resemblance to Breaking Bad‘s Walter White.

As a matter of fact, in prison Nacchio made friends with drug offenders like White, referred to in the article as Spoonie and Juice. Spoonie is quoted giving a testimonial to Nacchio: “Joe was right down to earth,” said Spoonie, “who asked that his real name not be used because of the stigma his drug-conspiracy conviction carries.” Spoonie could serve as a reference for Nacchio:

Spoonie, 45, said other white-collar offenders were “just all full of themselves,” and stereotyped inmates such as himself and Juice, another drug offender, because of their tattoos and crimes.

“We are like best friends now,” he said, adding that Mr. Nacchio’s prison nickname was “Joe-ski-luv,” because he’s been married to the same woman for more than 30 years. “If he ever needs a lung or a bone, I’m there.”

The Journal also touches on humor in the big house:

Mr. Nacchio and his prison mates found humor in their situation. They liked to play practical jokes on the “newbies”—white-collar offenders new to prison camp.

Mr. Nacchio would sit quietly beside them the first time they entered the TV room. Spoonie and another inmate would burst in and pretend to jump Mr. Nacchio, whaling on him with fake kicks and punches as he begged them to stop.

I think you might have had to be there.

The article also touches on an angle out of current news:

Mr. Nacchio said he still believes his insider-trading prosecution was government retaliation for rebuffing requests in 2001 from the National Security Agency to access his customers’ phone records. His plans to use that belief as a defense at trial never materialized; some of the evidence he wanted to use was deemed classified and barred from being introduced.

To Mr. Nacchio, the revelations of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who leaked documents saying the agency monitors the email and phone records of Americans, have justified his own stance. He contended the NSA’s request was illegal. “I feel vindicated,” he said. “I never broke the law, and I never will.”

An NSA spokeswoman declined to comment.

The Journal adds that Nacchio is shopping two books to publishers: “One will be about what he says is Americans’ loss of liberty based on his experiences with the NSA and other agencies. Another will be based on his incarceration and is ‘a little bit like Woody Allen and Mel Brooks go to prison.'”


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