Wednesday, September 01, 2004

DoJ: Please Quash Terror Convictions 

In Chicago, the first prosecution of alleged terrorists after 9/11 has turned into a monumental cock-up, and fingers are pointing in all directions:
In a dramatic reversal, the Justice Department acknowledges its original prosecution of a suspected terror cell in Detroit was filled with a “pattern of mistakes and oversights” that warrant the dismissal of the convictions.

In a 60-page memo that harshly criticizes its own prosecutors’ work, the department told U.S. District Judge Gerald Rosen on Tuesday night it supports the Detroit defendants’ request for a new trial and would no longer pursue terrorism charges against them. The defendants at most would only face fraud charges at a new trial.

The Justice Department is “concurring in the defendants’ motions for a new trial” and asks the court to dismiss the first count of the original indictment charging the defendants with material support of terrorism, the government’s filing said . . . .

The department’s decision came after a monthslong internal investigation uncovered several pieces of evidence that prosecutors failed to turn over to defense lawyers before the trial last year. The probe exposed deep differences within the government over the course of the case and the quality of the prosecution’s evidence.

The internal investigation of prosecutorial misconduct found enough problems that there is “no reasonable prospect of winning,” the government conceded, drawing back from a case once hailed by the Bush administration as a major victory in the war on terror.

The memo attached to Justice’s filing was harshly critical of Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Convertino, the lead prosecutor in the case. It quotes Convertino’s colleague who worked on the case as saying he would never have proceeded if he knew the problems uncovered by the internal investigation.
This February, in an unprecedented move, Richard Convertino filed suit against John Ashcroft, alleging that Justice had sabotaged his case by suppressing evidence. DoJ also deported a potential defendant in the case, who was then ranked as #27 on the FBI's list of most-wanted terrorists; he is now back home in Syria, a free man.

Convertino has also claimed that Justice retaliated against him by ratting out one of his confidential informants.

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