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U.S. Attorney Martin Investigated by Ethics Watchdog for 2 Prosecutions

Posted Jul 15, 2008 9:47 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility is investigating allegations of misconduct made by a company unsuccessfully prosecuted by U.S. Attorney Alice Martin, the American Lawyer reports.

The company, Axion Corp., was prosecuted for giving technical drawings for a Blackhawk helicopter part to manufacturers in China. After the trial started, the government acknowledged the drawings had not been labeled as restricted and they were accessible on the Internet, the story says.

Government witnesses also testified that the government had sold Blackhawk helicopters containing the part to China and prosecutors were aware of the sales, the story says. The federal judge hearing the case, Inge Johnson, dismissed the prosecution and awarded Axion $363,000 in costs, attorney fees and interest.

The Birmingham News and USA Today are also reporting on the investigation of Martin, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama. Axion lawyer Henry Frohsin told the Birmingham News he filed a complaint against Martin with the Justice Department and he was told an investigation had been opened. Martin said she had not seen the complaint and could not comment. In an earlier interview she said anyone can file a complaint with OPR.

The complaint says Martin and two of her deputies allegedly told defense lawyers that their goal was to put the company owner out of business whether or not he was convicted, USA Today reports.

The author of the American Lawyer story, labeled “commentary,” is Scott Horton, a Columbia law professor who works on military contractor issues for Human Rights First.

Martin also prosecuted former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman on charges of corruption but dropped the case a day after the trial began, the American Lawyer story says. Other prosecutors later charged Siegelman in connection with improper campaign donations, and he was convicted of bribery. Siegelman’s lawyers have argued he was wrongly convicted for a transaction that was similar to a standard campaign contribution. His case is on appeal.

Martin is also under investigation in connection with the Siegelman case, the American Lawyer article says, quoting a spokesman from OPR. Martin is being investigated for "allegations of political prosecution involving both the Northern and Middle Districts of Alabama, arising out of the prosecution of former Gov. Siegelman and other matters," the spokesman said.

Martin told WHNT.com that the prosecution of Siegelman, a Democrat, had nothing to do with pressure from Republicans. “It's not about Democrats or Republicans,” she said. “It's about a crime. It's about crooks.”

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