- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 27, 2003


The conviction of an inmate who spent 10 years in prison has been overturned because an FBI scientific expert gave inaccurate testimony and withheld evidence — one of the first reversals arising from an investigation of the FBI lab.

The FBI agent, Michael Malone, was transferred from the lab after the problems were discovered but continued to work for the bureau until his retirement in December 1999.

The government disclosed to defense lawyers in 2001 that Mr. Malone had engaged in misconduct as a witness in the case of Anthony E. Bragdon, officials said.

Mr. Bragdon was convicted by a jury in 1992 in District of Columbia Superior Court of assault with intent to rape. By the time the government divulged Mr. Malone’s problems to Mr. Bragdon’s attorneys and the appeals process started, the inmate had already served 10 years in prison and been released on parole.

The same court recently overturned his conviction, and federal prosecutors told the judge they wouldn’t retry him.

“I did all that time. That is a major part of my life,” Mr. Bragdon said in a telephone interview yesterday. “When I went to prison I was just 19. This was my first adult conviction. I had never been locked up … So they never gave me a chance to establish myself in the real world as far as getting a job.”

Mr. Bragdon’s freedom is an outgrowth of a sweeping investigation in the 1990s prompted by FBI whistleblower Frederic Whitehurst’s charges that his FBI lab colleagues had done shoddy work and shaded the truth to help prosecutors.

The internal investigation concluded in 1997 there were problems with the work and testimonies of several FBI scientists, including Mr. Malone, and the FBI lab made changes to ensure the quality of its future work.

The Associated Press reported in March that a review had identified about 3,000 cases that could have been affected by the shoddy work but only 150 defendants had been notified of problems. That same month, the judge overturned Mr. Bragdon’s conviction.

Mr. Bragdon, 31, who was released from prison last summer, said he was angered by Mr. Malone’s conduct and the fact that it took 10 years to come to light.

Mr. Malone’s testimony made a difference, the court said.

“If the jurors had known that Mr. Malone testified falsely … the outcome of the trial reasonably could have been different,” the judge wrote.

Mr. Malone could not be located for comment yesterday.

The FBI said as a result of the internal review of the lab in the mid-1990s, Mr. Malone was moved from his job in the hair and fiber analysis section and sent back to field work until his retirement.

FBI officials said the lab is a much different place today. “We complied fully with the inspector general investigation in 1997, implementing all of the recommendations and then some,” spokesman Paul Bresson said yesterday.

Mr. Malone had testified at the trial that carpet fibers he found on a woman’s clothing linked her to Mr. Bragdon’s apartment. It was the only scientific evidence corroborating the victim’s testimony she had been raped.

Jurors ultimately settled on a lesser charge of assault with intent to rape and use of a firearm in a violent crime. Mr. Bragdon was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

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