Former Federal Prosecutor Indicted for Trial Conduct

A former federal prosecutor has been indicted for concealing evidence in the country's first terrorism trial after the Sept. 11 attacks.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Now, the defendant in another case is no stranger to courtroom, though he is more accustomed to prosecuting defendants than being one. He is the former federal prosecutor who handled the nation's first major terrorism trial after the September 11th attacks. And he's been indicted for concealing evidence in that case.

NPR's Libby Lewis reports.

LIBBY LEWIS reporting:

As an assistant U.S. attorney in Detroit, Richard Convertino prosecuted four North African immigrants charged with aiding terrorists. The case began days after the September 11th terrorist attacks. Now, Convertino faces criminal charges that he and a State Department agent conspired to conceal some photographs, important evidence in that case, and that they lied about it to the court. A federal judge would later throw out the convictions in the case. He said the government had withheld evidence that could have helped the defense.

After the trial, the Justice Department removed Convertino from the case, while a special prosecutor investigated his conduct. He sued the Justice Department, saying he was being punished for complaining about how little support he'd received to prepare the case. William Sullivan is Convertino's lawyer.

Mr. WILLIAM SULLIVAN (Attorney): We will show that the indictment issued today is manifestly false, and that it is yet another act of reprisal by the government against Mr. Convertino, because of the whistleblower lawsuit that he filed.

LEWIS: Legal experts say this is very rare--charging a prosecutor for a crime for his conduct when the misconduct is not something like taking a bribe. Rob Precht, who's a former law dean at the University of Michigan, says that Convertino's defense may well include the times he was working in. That argument goes...

Professor ROB PRECHT (Former Law Dean, University of Michigan): It's unfair to judge his conduct after the fact, especially in the time right after 9/11 when truly, the country was in a state of war.

LEWIS: The charges against Convertino carry up to 30 years in prison.

LEWIS: Libby Lewis, NPR News.

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