December 3, 2004
Investigation of Prosecutorial Misconduct
An article in the Detroit News (Dec. 3) discusses the expansion of a criminal investigation of Richard Convertino, an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of Michigan, for his conduct as the prosecutor in two drug trials. Convertino was the lead prosecutor in the so-called "Detroit Terrorism Trial" in 2003, in which two men were convicted of conspiracy to engage in terrorism. The conviction was reversed and those charges dismissed this past summer when the U.S. Attorney's Office admitted that Brady materials had been withheld from the defense, allegedly by Convertino, and that the government's theory was not supported by the evidence. At that time, the Department of Justice began a criminal investigation of Convertino, and an investigation by the Office of Professional Responsibility also began. Convertino filed a law suit against Attorney General Ashcroft and then-U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Collins alleging that he was being retaliated against because he was a whistleblower. The article discloses that an Assistant U.S. Attorney from Buffalo, N.Y., has been assigned to the investigation and is looking into allegations of misconduct by Convertino in drug prosecutions in the late 1990s. Convertino's attorney strongly denies his client engaged in any wrongdoing in the various cases. According to the article:
It's the first indication that the department's review of Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard G. Convertino, a 14-year prosecutor in Detroit, has expanded beyond his handling of the nation's first post-September 11 terrorism trial. In that case, a judge dismissed terror convictions in September against two men after the Justice Department acknowledged that Convertino withheld key evidence from defense attorneys.
Justice Department officials have assigned Anthony M. Bruce, the chief of organized crime investigations in Buffalo, N.Y., to review allegations of misconduct by Convertino in two major drug-gang cases prosecuted in Detroit in the late 1990s, said U.S. Attorney Michael Battle, who heads the Buffalo office. Although Bruce was named in April, his assignment had not been disclosed.
The revelation suggests the government's investigation of Convertino's prosecutions has broadened and could result in the dismissal of other convictions in prior cases. Convertino handled dozens of high-profile cases during his time in Detroit, prosecuting gang, drug and mafia cases.
Investigations of this type of rare, and it will be interesting to see if it results in the filing of any criminal charges. (ph)