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November 1, 2007: Acquittal of US Prosecutor Suggests Al-Qaeda Cell May Have Existed in Detroit After All

Richard Convertino.Richard Convertino. [Source: Associated Press]Richard Convertino is acquitted by a Detroit federal court jury of subverting justice in a 2003 trial (see June 2003-August 2004). Convertino had been accused of withholding photographs from defense attorneys that might have undermined their 2003 prosecution and convictions of four alleged al-Qaeda-linked terrorists in Detroit. In 2003, defense attorneys wanted photos of a Jordanian hospital, hoping the photos would not match a crude drawing Convertino argued was a terrorist planning sketch. Convertino said there were none, and claims he never saw them, but photos of the hospital were later found. (Swickard 11/1/2007) However, a later FBI analysis determined the sketch did closely match the photos after all, so the photos would have actually strengthened Convertino’s case, not weakened it. The guilty verdicts against three of the four men - Abdel-Ilah Elmardoudi, Karim Koubriti, and Ahmed Hannan - were later overturned, in large part due to the dispute over the photos (see June 2003-August 2004). The Associated Press will later comment that evidence that the sketch and photos did match “renews questions about whether the government correctly arrested the four men as a terrorist cell…” (Solomon 4/21/2006) Convertino alleges the charges against him were politically motivated to punish him for complaining before Congress about a lack of resources in the trial. He has filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the Justice Department. (Swickard 11/1/2007) A judge dismisses one remaining charge against Convertino a month later. (Associated Press 12/12/2007) It appears the Justice Department also battled with Convertino and his prosecution team and prevented him from using evidence that could have strengthened his case (see Early 2003).


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