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SAC's plea agreement hangs over manager's trial

Michael Steinberg
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Michael Steinberg

Federal prosecutors and attorneys for former SAC portfolio manager Michael Steinberg, who goes on trial later this month, have asked the presiding judge to take extra care to weed out those in the jury pool who have views on the firm's plea deal.

Steinberg has pleaded not guilty to five criminal counts surrounding alleged insider trading in Dell and NVIDIA stock. Jury selection is scheduled to begin Nov. 18, just two weeks after SAC agreed to plead guilty to criminal charges and pay $1.2 billion in additional penalties for what prosecutors have described as "pervasive" insider trading.

In a joint court filing late yesterday, attorneys for both sides asked U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan to take prospective jurors aside for "detailed questioning"—outside the presence of the rest of the jury pool—if there are indications the person "may have seen or become aware of the charges against SAC Capital, the recent plea by SAC Capital or any media coverage" of the scandal.

(Read more: SAC insider trading plea deal for Aggarwal)

The government and defense attorneys disagree on how much prospective jurors should be told about Steinberg's involvement with SAC, however. The government says jurors should be told that Steinberg worked at Sigma Capital Management, a division of SAC Capital. The defense does not want the judge to say specifically where Steinberg worked.

Jurors are also likely to be asked if they have any strong opinions about Wall Street hedge funds, or the economic crisis.

In announcing SAC's record plea agreement Monday, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara stressed that individuals are not out of the woods. Steinberg is one of two former SAC portfolio managers still facing trial. The other, Mathew Martoma, is scheduled to go on trial in January.

—By CNBC's Scott Cohn; Follow him on Twitter: @ScottCohnCNBC

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