Report: Judge faced prostitution allegations
October 31, 2008
DENVER ” A chief federal judge in Colorado who resigned amid misconduct allegations last week faced claims from an appellate judge that he patronized prostitutes, according to court documents released Thursday.
The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the complaints against Edward Nottingham, whose resignation went into effect Wednesday. In an order, Chief Circuit Judge Robert H. Henry said the complaints are unnecessary in light of Nottingham’s resignation.
He said the misconduct procedures apply only to active federal judges, noting Nottingham had resigned.
Nottingham also faced an allegation from a prostitute that he had asked her to lie, according to the documents released by the Circuit Court on Thursday.
It was unclear whether a criminal investigation is under way. Jeff Dorschner, a spokesman with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and FBI spokeswoman Kathleen Wright said they could not comment on the matter.
Nottingham presided over the insider trading trial of former Qwest Communications CEO Joe Nacchio.
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Nottingham ceased judicial activities and announced his resignation Oct. 21 amid investigation of the complaints.
A telephone message left for Nottingham’s attorney, Stephen Peters, was not immediately returned. A statement issued by Peters’ office last week said Nottingham was deeply remorseful for his actions, embarrassed “and ashamed for any loss of confidence caused by those actions and attendant publicity, and sincerely apologizes to the public and judiciary.”
Allegations that Nottingham solicited prostitutes and asked one of them to lie about being a client were previously reported by Denver’s KUSA-TV, which quoted anonymous sources. The station, again citing anonymous sources, also had reported that Nottingham’s name had turned up on a client list of a prostitution ring being investigated by the IRS.
Authorities repeatedly refused to comment on the reports.
In an order Henry issued Thursday dismissing the complaints, Henry said media reports in March prompted an investigation by a special committee of the court that resulted in Henry filing a complaint against Nottingham on Oct. 1. That compliant alleged that Nottingham had been a client of prostitution businesses, used his court-owned cell phone to call prostitutes, and lied during the investigation.
Additional details were not released.
On Oct. 10, a prostitute who said Nottingham was one of her clients filed a complaint, alleging that on Feb. 29, Nottingham asked her to lie to federal investigators, according to the order.
Henry’s order also said that Nottingham was under investigation for allegedly lying about whether he viewed sexually explicit images on his court computer, as alleged in a complaint by then-Chief Circuit Judge Deanell Reece Tacha in August 2007.
Tacha cited news reports that Nottingham had used his court computer to view sexually explicit images and had spent $3,000 at a topless nightclub in one night.
At the time, Nottingham issued a statement saying the reports dealt with “private and personal matters involving human frailties and foibles” and that they became public because of “protracted, bitter divorce proceedings.”
Another complaint filed in September 2007 alleges he misused his authority in identifying himself as a federal judge and threatening to call U.S. Marshals after a woman in a wheelchair confronted him over his parking in a handicapped parking spot.
The appellate court said it interviewed many witnesses, considered voluminous documentation, and conducted two hearings into the allegations, which last week Henry said had reached a “crucial time.”
Judge Wiley Y. Daniel succeeded Nottingham as chief judge.
Sean Harrington, who heads a legal technology firm, cited the media reports about the strip club and use of the computer to view adult Web sites in a complaint he filed in January. Henry did not mention Harrington’s complaint, though Harrington received confirmation in May that those claims were being reviewed.
Nottingham presided over the high-profile trial of Nacchio, the former CEO of Denver-based Qwest.
Nacchio was convicted in April 2007 on 19 counts of insider trading but acquitted of 23 counts. Federal prosecutors argued he sold $52 million worth of stock at a time when he knew Qwest was at risk while other investors did not. He was sentenced to six years in prison but is free pending appeal.
A three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit ordered a new trial in March, saying Nottingham improperly prevented a defense expert from testifying. The panel ordered the case go before a new judge, saying that “it would be unreasonably difficult to expect this judge (Nottingham) to retry the case with a fresh mind.”
The full 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is reviewing the panel’s decision.
Nottingham, a native of Eagle County in the Colorado mountains, took up his position on the federal bench in November 1989. He became chief judge of the U.S. District Court for Colorado last year.