Justice Department May Join in Request for New Terrorism Trial

by TChris

The Detroit verdict that John Ashcroft heralded as a victory against terrorism may be coming undone. An excellent summary of events that are unravelling the case against three men accused of planning terrorist acts appears in the Detroit Free Press. The article suggests that Ashcroft's Justice Department may join the defense in asking for a new trial. While the government rarely confesses its errors, doing so in this case would be a victory for public integrity.

Wayne State University law professor David Moran reminds us that prosecutors accused of misconduct often "circle the wagons .... But that's not happening here." Instead, the U.S. Attorney's office appears to be conducting a serious investigation of the terrorism prosecutors' alleged misconduct. However, WSU law professor Robert Sedler considers it unlikely that an Ashcroft-headed Justice Department would join in a defense request for a new terrorism trial.

Developments in the case include:

  • a claim by a federal informant that FBI agents asked him to break the law to collect evidence against terror suspects and the recall of Detroit FBI chief Willie Hulon to Washington pending a review of his conduct.
  • accusations that Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Convertino and his boss, Keith Corbett, withheld documents and witnesses, preventing the defendants from receiving a fair trial.
  • allegations that U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Collins retaliated against Convertino for testifying before the Senate Finance Committee by removing him from the case.
  • judicial criticism of Convertino and Corbett for withholding a letter written by notorious Detroit drug dealer Milton (Butch) Jones, who also said the prosecution's star witness, Youssef Hmimssa, had lied.
  • an investigation into whether Convertino tried to persuade a court investigator to dig up derogatory information about a former terrorism suspect to try to discredit his testimony in the terrorism trial.
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