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Detroit 'Sleeper Cell' Prosecutor Faces Probe
Jones wrote to prosecutors that he had spoken in jail with Youssef Hmimssa, the only witness to tie the Detroit defendants to a terrorist cell. He quoted Hmimssa as saying he had lied to the FBI and fooled the Secret Service. Jones offered to show prosecutors his notes and take a polygraph test.
Federal prosecutor Joseph Allen testified in a post-trial hearing that he showed the letter to Convertino more than a year before Hmimssa took the witness stand. When it became clear during the trial that the letter remained secret, Allen was so upset that he notified the head of the Detroit U.S. attorney's office criminal division, Alan Gershel.
Gershel told Rosen how, with the letter in front of him, he instructed Convertino's co-counsel, Keith Corbett, during the trial to release it. Allen said Gershel told him later the same day that the matter had been taken care of.
But Convertino and Corbett did not release the letter. Questioned later by Rosen, Convertino said "it slipped through the cracks" and would not have helped the defense anyway. Corbett admitted a "mistake in judgment on our part," but added that he did not recall Gershel's order to surrender the letter.
Rosen ordered the internal Justice Department inquiry in December 2003, six months after the jury convicted Koubriti and Elmardoudi of supporting terrorism. Those two and Hannan were also convicted of document fraud. Ali-Haimoud was acquitted.
The Justice Department took its own case apart, witness by witness, and delivered scores of pages of evidence to defense lawyers. Rosen also traveled to the CIA to review classified documents.
Beyond the evidence about the trial, the Justice Department review quoted witnesses as saying that Convertino instructed an FBI agent not to fill out official reports on the lengthy interviews of Hmimssa, the questionable witness. The FBI reports -- standard procedure -- would have been accessible to defense lawyers.
Defense lawyers, who had accused the prosecution of concealing evidence and knowingly using false testimony, felt vindicated.
"This was, for lack of a better term, a conspiracy to present a fraudulent case to the court," said Detroit defense lawyer William Swor, who represented Elmardoudi. "They took what was a reasonable concern under the circumstances and turned it into a witch hunt."
Staff writer Carol D. Leonnig in Washington contributed to this report.