A federal judge Tuesday scheduled the stock manipulation trial of Broadcom Corp. co-founder Henry T. Nicholas III for April and rejected prosecutors' request to first try Nicholas on drug charges.
Nicholas, the former chief executive of Broadcom, has pleaded not guilty to a 21-count indictment of improperly backdating millions of stock options to reward employees at the Irvine computer chip designer.
A separate four-count indictment accuses the 48-year-old Newport Coast billionaire of distributing cocaine, methamphetamine and ecstasy at three homes and a warehouse he used for parties, and of spiking the drinks of technology executives with drugs. He has denied those allegations as well.
Assistant U.S. Atty. Kenneth Julian told U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney that the drug case was relatively simple and should be tried quickly, with a break before beginning the options case to let the publicity die down.
Carney brushed the request aside.
"From where I'm sitting, the options case is far more important to the public interest," he said, scheduling the drug trial for Nov. 10, 2009.
Defense attorneys had asked Carney to give them 15 months to prepare for the complicated stock-option case, but the judge said he would "get nervous" about such a long delay. He instead chose a date about nine months in the future: April 7, 2009. He said the defense could request more time later if necessary.
"If you need more than nine months, I'll give it to you as long as everyone's working hard," he said.
Broadcom's former finance chief, William J. Ruehle, is to be tried along with Nicholas for his role in the alleged options scheme. He has pleaded not guilty in the options case and has not been charged in the drug case.