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Steinberg loses bid to delay trial over SAC guilty plea

Michael Steinberg leaves Manhattan Federal Court in New York March 29, 2013. REUTERS/Keith Bedford
Michael Steinberg leaves Manhattan Federal Court in New York March 29, 2013. REUTERS/Keith Bedford

By Nate Raymond

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Michael Steinberg, the most senior employee of Steven A. Cohen's SAC Capital Advisors to be indicted for insider trading, has lost a bid to delay his trial, which is set to begin on Monday.

Steinberg, 41, had urged a federal judge to delay the trial by three months in light of publicity surrounding a $1.2 billion plea deal by Cohen's hedge fund announced last week.

In an order made public on Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan in Manhattan acknowledged the "great deal of pretrial publicity" related to the case. But he denied the request, saying he doubted a delay would help.

"Even assuming that the public is forgetful enough to be affected by a three-month delay, there is a strong likelihood that this and related cases will still be in the news three months from now," Sullivan said.

He noted that Mathew Martoma, a former SAC fund manager, is scheduled for trial on insider trading charges in January, while SAC Capital is scheduled to be sentenced in March following its guilty plea on Friday in a criminal case overseen by U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain.

Swain has put off a decision on whether to accept the hedge fund's plea to fraud charges until she reviews the plea agreement and a report prepared for sentencing.

Steinberg, 41, is facing trial on five charges of securities fraud and conspiracy to commit securities fraud over allegations he traded in technology companies Dell Inc and Nvidia Corp in 2008 and 2009 based on inside information. He denies wrongdoing. Dell, which traded on the Nasdaq exchange, became privately held last month.

While Sullivan declined to delay Steinberg's trial, he said the publicity "risks prejudicing the jury." As a result, the judge said jurors could be individually questioned about their exposure to news about SAC.

Barry Berke, a lawyer for Steinberg, did not respond to a request for comment.

The case is U.S. v. Steinberg, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, 12-cr-00121.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond; Editing by Leslie Gevirtz)

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