Former Qwest International Inc Chief Executive and convicted insider trader Joseph Nacchio appears headed for prison on Tuesday after a years-long legal battle marked by a litany of appeals and verdict reversals.

Nacchio, whose 2007 conviction was hailed as a victory over greedy corporate chieftains of the dotcom era, will report to a minimum-security prison in Pennsylvania after a federal appeals court denied his emergency request to remain free while the U.S. Supreme Court considers whether to review his case.

In potentially his last chance to remain free, Nacchio filed a petition late on Monday with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer in hopes of extending his two years of release on bail.

While Breyer can postpone the start of Nacchio's six-year prison term until he or the full court reviews the case, the court rarely grants such petitions.

The high court rejected a similar request by former Illinois Gov. George Ryan, who was convicted in 2006 on corruption charges and wanted to remain free until the court acted on his case.

Nacchio asked to stay free until Breyer has had an opportunity to rule on this application, plus a brief additional interval to permit an orderly surrender, his petition said.

The former CEO was convicted in April 2007 on 19 counts of insider trading related to sales of Qwest stock in April and May of 2001, after company officials warned him the company could not meet its financial targets.

The case was seen at the time as a milestone in government efforts to clean up abuses by Wall Street bosses who grew rich in the dotcom bubble in part by withholding bad news from shareholders.


In addition to his federal prison term, he was fined $19 million and ordered to forfeit $52 million in profits from the sales. A three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit overturned the conviction in 2008, but the full appeals court reinstated it, on a 5-4 vote, in February.

On Monday, a federal appeals court ruled in a 2-1 decision that Nacchio has not shown that there is a reasonable chance that the Supreme Court will grant his petition.

The appellate panel let stand a district judge's earlier order that he report to the Pennsylvania prison by noon on Tuesday.

In his appeal to Breyer, Nacchio's attorneys said he had only to present a 'reasonable chance' -- not a likelihood -- that four justices will vote to grant (a review) and that his petition raises several substantial question of national importance.

Nacchio's attorneys have argued for a new trial or acquittal on the grounds that the trial court improperly excluded a key defense witness and that the appeals court made errors in reinstating his conviction.

(Reporting by Robert Boczkiewicz in Denver, Gina Keating in Los Angeles; Editing by Edwin Chan, Gary Hill)