A federal prosecutor in Detroit has sued Attorney General John Ashcroft and other Justice Department officials, charging that he was the target of a smear campaign that resulted in the exposure of a valuable counterterrorism informant, the Washington Post reports. Richard Convertino, a 15-year prosecutor, accuses Justice officials of “gross mismanagement” of terrorism cases, contending that the department has “placed ‘perception’ over ‘reality’ to the serious detriment of the war on terror.”
Convertino has said he was removed from a terrorism case after cooperating with a Senate inquiry and is being investigated for allegedly withholding crucial evidence from defense attorneys. The U.S. Attorney and FBI in Detroit have handled major terrorism cases since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks but have come under scrutiny for allegedly mishandling informants and evidence.
Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, said the Covertino lawsuit could undermine the government’s credibility in other terrorism cases. “This is really turning into the prosecutorial version of ‘Peyton Place,’ ” Turley said. “Detroit has been a particular embarrassment for the government, because this is one of a number of such accusations there. . . . But most of these fights stay in-house. It’s viewed with great disfavor for a prosecutor to be critical in public of either DOJ or the attorney general.”