An e-mail in which Broadcom Corp. co-founder Henry T. Nicholas III allegedly talks about a drug binge can be used as evidence during his criminal trial, a federal judge ruled.
Lawyers for Nicholas, an Orange County and Silicon Valley billionaire, had argued that the 2002 message to his estranged wife was privileged because it was a personal communication.
However, U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney noted that the e-mail was written on a Broadcom computer, passed among Broadcom executives, turned over to federal investigators and mentioned in a newspaper article.
"The court cannot keep secret what is already public," Carney wrote in a ruling unsealed Thursday.
Nicholas is accused of conspiring to backdate $2.2 billion in employee stock options. He and former Broadcom Chief Financial Officer William Ruehle have pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiring to commit accounting and securities fraud.
Nicholas also has pleaded not guilty in a separate case to drug charges, including allegations that he slipped ecstasy into the drinks of business associates.