U.S. Attorney John Brownlee of Virginia says he he landed on a list of prosecutors considered for dismissal a week after clashing with a top Justice Department official over a fraud case involving the drug company that makes OxyContin, USa Today reports. Brownlee’s testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee comes as Congress investigates whether Attorney General Alberto Gonzales fired nine U.S. attorneys for political reasons.
The case against Purdue Pharma was settled; the company agreed to pay $635 million. Purdue executives, admitting that the company falsely marketed the drug as less addictive than other painkillers, pleaded guilty to misdemeanors, avoiding prison time. Brownlee said Michael Elston, then chief of staff for Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, called him on Oct. 24, 2006, the deadline for the company to accept the government’s offer or face other charges. Elston told him the company had complained it needed more time, Brownlee said. I sensed that he was inquiring almost on their behalf,” Brownlee recalled. “I simply dismissed him.”