Joe Nacchio and Qwest today settled a lawsuit over who is responsible for his future legal fees. Shorter version: Qwest will continue to pay legal fees incurred in his civil cases while Nacchio will pay for those involved in his criminal appeal. The transcript of Nacchio’s sentencing hearing is now available online (pdf). It appears from Judge Nottingham’s comments that Nacchio is not hurting for money. In assessing the $19 million fine against Nacchio, the Judge stated that he doesn’t expect it to have much impact on Nacchio or his ability to provide for his family.

The defendant’s financial resources, as disclosed in the presentence report and statements introduced as exhibits at trial, disclose to this Court’s satisfaction that he is able to pay the fine which the Court has imposed. While the fine will undoubtedly impose some burden upon the defendant, that burden is appropriate. The Court finds that it will not unduly burden his family or any person financially dependent on him, particularly when it is compared to the alternative punishment of imprisonment.

That’s pretty amazing when you think about it. Between the fine and the forfeiture, Mr. Nacchio can afford to give up $71 million without affecting his family’s financial welfare. I wonder if Nacchio had been given the choice before his indictment either to give up all of his assets, not just the $71 million, or go to jail for five years (the approximate amount he will serve after good time credits) which he would choose. What would you choose? Would you do five years in prison to preserve millions for when you got out? Or would you say you’d rather live life broke but free? A client of mine, now deceased, told me 20 years ago after touring federal prison camps around the country trying to decide which one to ask the Judge to recommend he be sent to, that had he known what they were like, he would have saved the considerable amount he spent on legal fees, done his time and kept his money for when he got out. In Nacchio’s case, the jury and the judge made the choice for him. But I can’t help but think, notwithstanding the stiff jail sentence and financial penalties, Nacchio got the better end of the bargain.