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Tag: Richard Convertino

Ex-Fed Prosecutor Keeps Trying and Trying to Find Out Detroit Free Press Sources

Ex-Prosecutor Richard Convertino

By Allan Lengel
Deadline Detroit

DETROIT — Former federal prosecutor Richard Convertino isn’t giving up in his quest to find out confidential sources in a story Detroit Free Press reporter David Ashenfelter wrote nine years ago.

U.S. District Court Robert Cleland in Detroit on Tuesday ordered the paper to produce documents by Jan. 29 related to the story or confidential sources, according to the Free Press.

He also ordered that the Free Press produce a witness other than Ashenfelter who would know about the sources. The judge had previously granted Ashenfelter his Fifth Amendment right not to disclose the sources. Ashenfelter recently took a buyout from the Free Press.

“We respect the court, and we also respect the public’s right to know and the protection of sources,” Free Press Editor and Publisher Paul Anger said in a story in the Free Press. “Our legal fight continues.”

To read more click here.

Ex-Detroit Prosecutor Convertino Asks Appeals Court to Reinstate Suit Against Justice Dept.

Ex-Prosecutor Richard Convertino

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

DETROIT — Here we go again?

We shall see.

Ex-Detroit fed prosecutor Richard Convertino is asking a federal appeals court in D.C. to reinstate his privacy suit against the Justice Department over info leaked to Detroit Free Press reporter David Ashenfelter, the BLT: Blog of LegalTimes reported.

Convertino, who was acquitted on obstruction charges in a high-profile terrorism case he prosecuted, has alleged that the Justice Dept. leaked info to the Detroit Free Press about an ethics investigation into his conduct.

U.S. District Judge Royce Lambert in D.C. in March dismissed the suit, saying it had dragged on too long, and that after seven years, Convertino was no closer to figuring out who leaked the information.

“Despite seven years of dedicated effort, Convertino is no closer to identifying the source(s) of the leak today than he was when this litigation commenced,” the judge wrote in his ruling.

“In sum, Convertino has made a monumental effort to identify Ashenfelter’s source(s) and has had absolutely no success. Moreover, OIG (Office of Inspector General) conducted its own extensive investigation into the identity of the source(s) and was equally unsuccessful. After seven years of litigation, then, Convertino cannot answer the question that lies at the heart of [his] case.”

“Without knowledge of the leaker’s identity, Convertino cannot establish that DOJ acted willfully or intentionally,” the ruling said.

The BLT blog reported that Convertino’s attorney Stephen Kohn argued Monday against the judge’s ruling that additional time would not benefit Convertino’s case.

To read more click here.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

 

Judges Tosses Ex-Terrorist Suspect’s Suit Against Detroit FBI Agent

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

DETROIT –An FBI agent is off the hook.

U.S. District Judge Marianne Battani of Detroit on Monday tossed out a lawsuit against FBI agent Michael Thomas, the Associated Press reported. The suit was filed Karim Koubriti, whose terrorism conviction  in Detroit was thrown out after it was ruled that the prosecution withheld crucial evidence from the defense.

The judge on Monday ruled that  Koubriti had failed to prove that the agent had intentionally withheld evidence, AP reported.

Koubriti was after millions of dollars in damage in a suit originally filed against Thomas and former federal prosecutor Richard Convertino. Convertino had been removed from the lawsuit based on a ruling that prosecutors are immune from lawsuits.

The high profile case generated a lot of attention, first because the arrests came shortly after 9/11.  Later, after trial, the case  was mired in controversy after allegations surfaced that the prosecution had withheld information from the defense.

OTHERpS STORIES OF INTEREST

Judge Tosses Ex-Fed Prosecutor’s Case Against Justice Dept.

Ex-Prosecutor Richard Convertino

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON – The Justice Department won a legal battle against one of its own.

A D.C. federal judge on Thursday dismissed a whistleblower lawsuit by ex-Detroit federal prosecutor Richard Convertino against the Justice Department. The lawsuit alleged that the Justice leaked damaging information about an internal Justice probe into Convertino.

U.S. District Judge Royce C.  Lamberth ruled that  Convertino, after seven years, had failed to show that a Justice Department employee had leaked to  Detroit Free Press  reporter David Ashenfelter information about a Justice Department Office of Professional Responsibility Probe into Covertino’s actions during a high-profile terrorism case.  Ashenfelter published a story about the probe.

The ruling was first reported in the Detroit News.

“Despite seven years of dedicated effort, Convertino is no closer to identifying the source(s) of the leak today than he was when this litigation commenced,” the judge wrote in a ruling.

“In sum, Convertino has made a monumental effort to identify Ashenfelter’s source(s) and has had absolutely no success. Moreover, OIG (Office of Inspector General) conducted its own extensive investigation into the identity of the source(s) and was equally unsuccessful. After seven years of litigation, then, Convertino cannot answer the question that lies at the heart of [his] case.”

David Ashenfelter

“Without knowledge of the leaker’s identity, Convertino cannot establish that DOJ acted willfully or intentionally,” the ruling said.

Convertino convicted three people who were suspected of being part of a terrorist sleeper cell in Detroit. They were arrested right after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, and the case became national news.

In fact, then-Attorney Gen.  John Ashcroft mistakenly said initially that the men had prior knowledge of the Sept. 11 attacks.  He later corrected the misstatement.

But the convictions were overturned and he was criminally charged with misconduct in the case.  He was eventually acquitted. The entire case created serious tensions in the Detroit U.S. Attorney’s Office.

During the course of his whistleblower lawsuit, Convertino deposed Ashenfelter, a Pulitzer prize winning reporter, but failed to get him to disclose his source.

Convertino continually insisted during the lawsuit that a particular assistant U.S. Attorney had leaked the info to the Free Press. But an internal Justice Department probe failed to confirm that.

Herschel Fink, attorney for the Free Press, told Free Press reporter Joe Swickard that the decision was “a very good development for journalism … and the ability for a journalist to protect his sources.”

The Free Press said Convertino, who is in private practice, did not return calls for comment.

Read Opinion

Ex-Detroit Fed Prosecutor Convertino Stepped into New Controversy With Old Colleagues: Then Case Suddenly Ends

Ex-Prosecutor Richard Convertino

Ex-Prosecutor Richard Convertino

UPDATE: (Fri. May 21) — The battle between  Richard Convertino and prosecutors came to an abrupt halt Thursday when Convertino’s client, ex-state Rep. Mary Waters pleaded guilty   in the bribery case along with her co-defendant Sam Riddle. Waters, who pleaded to a misdemeanor, is expected to get probation and Riddle could get up to 37 months in prions, according to the Detroit News.
By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Richard Convertino, the controversial former Detroit federal prosecutor is in the middle of a controversy once again with former colleagues at the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

This time it’s over wiretaps.

Federal prosecutors in a court motion claim that Convertino, who is now a defense attorney, breached a court secrecy order and disclosed government informants when he filed a motion to suppress evidence from wiretaps in a bribery case against his client, ex-state Rep. Mary Waters, according to the Detroit News. Convertino told the paper he has done nothing improper.

Convertino has a history with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Known as a hard-charging prosecutor,  he successfully prosecuted two men on terrorism related charges in 2003. A third co-defendant was only convicted on fraud charges and a fourth was acquitted.  The men had been arrested shortly after Sept. 11, 2001.

Then the case unraveled.

Read more »

Defense Atty. Accuses FBI of Improperly Recording Detroit Journalist’s Conversations in Public Corruption Case

Bankole Thompson/facebook

Journalist Bankole Thompson/facebook

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

An ex-federal prosecutor turned defense attorney is accusing the FBI of improperly taping conversations of a Detroit journalist and fabricating documents by describing him as an “unknown male.”, according to the Detroit News.

The defense attorney Richard Convertino, in a court filing on Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Detroit, claimed the FBI recorded the conversations of Michigan Chronicle senior editor Bankole Thompson and failed to get approval from Washington as required, the News reported.

Bankole was talking to Sam Riddle, the target of a public corruption probe, but nothing beneficial was said in those conversations,  claimed Convertino, who also alleged other improprieties involving the wiretaps.

Convertno represents ex-state Rep. Mary Waters, a former companion of Riddle’s. Both Riddle and Waters are charged with bribing a Southfield City Councilman William Lattimore.

“As fruits of the poisonous tree, it is clear that without these illegal wiretaps, the government would not have had any evidence from which to derive …. the purported bribe(s) of Southfield City Councilman William Lattimore,” Convertino wrote in the motion.

Consequently, he asked that the charges be dropped against Waters.

The paper reported that a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined comment.

Read Full Story

Read Convertino’s Motion

Judge Rules Detroit Fed Prosecutor’s Emails Are Private

Ex-Prosecutor Convertino
Ex-Prosecutor Convertino

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — A Detroit assistant U.S. Attorney doesn’t have to provide his emails in a controversial lawsuit involving a former colleague who is suing the Justice Department over leaks to the Detroit Free Press.

U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth of Washington ruled earlier this month that former federal prosecutor Richard Convertino can’t see any of assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Tukel’s emails to his private attorney or those involving Justice Department work.

Convertino has indicated that he thinks Tukel was the one who may have leaked information about an Office of Professional Responsibility investigation targeting him.

“We need to encourage candid communications among government officials allowing officials to deliberate honestly with each other, without fear that they discussions will be exposed to the public,” Judge Lamberth wrote in a ruling favoring Tukel, who had opposed the release.

He added that “Mr. Tukel reasonably expected that his emails with his personal attorney to remain confidential.”

Convertino, an aggressive prosecutor who became a controversial figure in the office, resigned in 2005 while under investigation for a 2003 terrorism case he prosecuted and won.

The convictions were later overturned and he was indicted on obstruction of justice charges, which alleged that he withheld exculpatory evidence from the defense and allowed false testimony during trial. He was eventually acquitted.

The emails included communications with his attorney and on Justice Department cases. The judge ruled that both were privileged and protected from being released.

Read the Judge’s Ruling

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Fed Judge Once Again Orders Detroit Reporter to Testify in Suit by Ex-Prosecutor

David AshenfelterThe battle between an ex-prosecutor and a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter continues in the Motown. The question is: How many more delays will the judge tolerate?

BY JIM SCHAEFER and JOE SWICKARD
Detroit Free Press
DETROIT — Free Press reporter David Ashenfelter, who previously refused a court order to identify his sources in a 2004 article, has been ordered to testify once more in the case of a former federal prosecutor who is suing the U.S. Justice Department.

Ashenfelter, 60, (in photo) refused to answer questions in a December deposition, citing, among other things, his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination.

Ashenfelter and lawyers for the Free Press have argued that he could face prosecution if he identifies who in the Justice Department leaked word that Richard Convertino was the subject of an internal probe for his handling of a 2003 Detroit terrorism trial.

At a hearing earlier this month, Justice Department lawyers told U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland they could not rule out a prosecution relating to the release of private government information.

Cleland, in an opinion expressing skepticism, on Thursday ordered Ashenfelter to clarify under oath why he fears prosecution, so the judge may decide for himself if the fears are valid.
For Full Story