U.S. Scrambles To Explain Errors in Dropped Iran Case

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Federal prosecutors who failed to turn over favorable evidence to a defendant told a judge they didn’t act in bad faith, even as they disclosed internal emails in which they discussed whether they might try to “bury” a document they were giving to defense lawyers in a stack of other papers. Prosecutors in the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s Office made the disclosure to Judge Alison Nathan, who had demanded answers about the prosecution’s failings and whether she had the power to impose sanctions, reports NPR. An email message described how a prosecutor found that an important document hadn’t been turned over to the defense, suggesting: “I’m wondering if we should wait until tomorrow and bury it in some other documents.”

Prosecutors dropped federal charges against Ali Sadr Hashemi Nejad, who was accused of violating U.S. sanctions laws against Iran. His defense attorneys told the judge they are “surprised and disappointed” by the government lapses. Attorney Brian Heberlig accused prosecutors of trying “to minimize, deflect, and deny, avoiding any acknowledgment or acceptance of responsibility for the government’s obvious, repeated failures and its notable lack of candor.” It is rare for a judge to demand that the government identify lawyers and supervisors involved in evidence-sharing errors. It’s even more rare for prosecutors to acknowledge such serious faults that they moved to dismiss a case they had already won. Perhaps in an attempt to stave off independent investigations of their conduct, prosecutors told the judge they are investigating their mistakes and holding a refresher course on evidence-sharing obligations. The prosecutors said, “Many items were discovered or disclosed far too late.”

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