The District of Columbia’s highest court disbarred a former federal prosecutor on Thursday for “egregious” misconduct during a series of high-profile murder cases in the 1990s, reports USA Today. The court’s decision to strip former assistant U.S. attorney G. Paul Howes of his law license is the first time in at least a decade that judges anywhere in the United States have disbarred a federal prosecutor for misconduct in a criminal case. “Disbarment is the only appropriate sanction where (Howes’) disregard for the laws of our jurisdiction affected the liberty interests of many and the safety of our larger community,” the court said.
Thursday’s decision by three D.C. Court of Appeals judges came nearly 16 years after Howes was first accused of misusing thousands of dollars of witness vouchers in gang and murder cases. The vouchers are supposed to be used to reimburse witnesses for costs associated with testifying in court, but Howes authorized payments to relatives and girlfriends of informants, an internal Justice Department investigation found. As a result of those violations, the court said, the Justice Department agreed to reduce prison sentences for nine convicted felons, including seven murderers. A USA TODAY investigation in 2010 documented 201 cases since 1997 in which courts found that federal prosecutors had violated laws or ethics rules. Only six federal prosecutors faced any type of discipline from the state offices that oversee legal ethics, and none was disbarred.