When a federal judge in Brooklyn recently overturned a gang-murder conviction because of perjury by government witnesses, he provided a rare glimpse of the murky world of prosecutors and their informers, the New York Times reports. In exchange for information, prosecutors offer leniency to killers, thieves, and liars.
Today, Judge John Gleeson, will sentence the three men he labeled perjurers. Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn say they still believe the man whose conviction was overturned was a killer. But they acknowledge lies by their witnesses, and they paint a dark portrait of informers’ predatory ways. A key witness, prosecutors acknowledged, “has lied and persists in lying.” Another lied “to minimize his own culpability.” Prosecutors have renounced leniency agreements they offered to two of the three for crimes they admitted; the third is to plead guilty to perjury when he is sentenced for his role in the killing.
The Times says the case has attracted wide notice because it shows how cooperating witnesses trying to protect themselves can build cases for prosecutors. Faced with rigid federal sentencing rules, more criminals are seeking leniency for their own crimes in exchange for testimony. Because prosecutors influence the judges who sentence cooperating witnesses, one defense attorney said that for many of these witnesses: “Truth is not important. Getting a conviction is important.”