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January 2009


How to Become a Bounty Hunter

A Detroit Reporter Comments on a Colleague’s Refusal to Disclose Federal Sources

In Detroit, a battle has been simmering between a former Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Convertino and Pulitzer Prize winning reporter David Ashenfelter. Convertino wants to know who leaked information about him to Ashenfelter, who is now taking the Fifth.

Ex-Prosecutor Convertino

Ex-Prosecutor Convertino

By Sandra Svoboda
News Hits staff/Detroit Metro Times
DETROIT — Let’s get this out right from the start: News Hits has a hard time being even close to objective when it comes to covering the legal tussle going on between Detroit Free Press reporter David Ashenfelter and former federal prosecutor Richard Convertino.
We don’t like to see good journalists called criminals for essentially doing their jobs. If reporters routinely fear prosecution for providing an otherwise absent watchdog role over government, everyone suffers.
Think Kwame Kilpatrick.
But part of us does understand Convertino’s position of wanting the truth to come out relevant to his personal lawsuit against the government. We’ve seen the movie Absence of Malice many times, and get the concept of unnamed government officials unscrupulously using the press as a weapon against someone they’re out to get.
We also understand how frustrating it can be for the aggrieved person trying to find out exactly who leaked the tar so that they can be held accountable. All of which is part of the reason we find the case fascinating.
Convertino, now in private practice in Plymouth, has filed a whistle-blower lawsuit against his former employer, the U.S. Department of Justice. Among other things, Convertino claims an unnamed official illegally gave Ashenfelter information for a 2004 article about the department investigating Convertino’s handling of a high-profile terrorism trial.
Convertino also claims he was punished for complaining – to Congress, in fact – about a lack of resources to fight terrorism.

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