Prosecution of Ex-US Atty Hits Snag

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Government lawyers contend in a trial that got under way this week that a former federal prosecutor from Detroit withheld evidence because of his ambition to win a terrorism case.

But the case against former U.S. Attorney Richard Convertino hit a snag when a key witness against him admitted he lied during a pretrial hearing, the Detroit Free Press reports.

The witness did not tell the truth when he told the judge why he refused to meet with defense lawyers in the case, the Detroit News reports. Lawyers for Convertino and a co-defendant claim the witness wouldn’t meet with defense lawyers because of pressure from prosecutors.

The witness, Samir Jarandogha, had told the judge his refusal to meet with defense lawyers was because of the advice of his Jordanian lawyer. Now prosecutors say Jarandogha did not talk to the lawyer, but offered no reason as to why he wouldn’t meet with defense lawyers.

A defense lawyer told jurors about the lie in opening statements. The prosecution’s “star witness” was caught in “a bald-faced lie,” said Thomas Cranmer, who is representing a co-defendant.

Convertino is accused of failing to disclose photos of a hospital that would have undercut the reliability of a sketch used against four defendants accused of casing the facility as part of a terrorist sleeper cell. Convertino obtained a conviction of two of the defendants, but it was overturned at the request of the Justice Department.

Convertino is now charged with conspiracy, false statements and obstruction of justice.

He is on trial along with a former State Department security officer, Harry Raymond Smith III, who allegedly snapped the photos of the hospital and testified in the original terrorism trial.

Jarandogha is to testify that he saw Smith take the hospital photos during a helicopter flight.

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