- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 29, 2006

DETROIT (AP) — A former federal prosecutor and a State Department official were indicted yesterday on charges of conspiring to conceal evidence during a botched terrorism trial.

Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard G. Convertino, 45, and State Department Regional Security Officer Harry Raymond Smith III, 49, were charged with conspiracy, obstruction of justice and making false declarations.

The indictment stemmed from the prosecution of four North African immigrants accused of operating a terrorist cell in Detroit. The case was the nation’s first major terrorism trial after the September 11 attacks, and was hailed by the Bush administration at one point as a victory in the war on terror.

Two of the four men, Karim Koubriti and Abdel-Ilah Elmardoudi, were convicted in 2003 of conspiring to provide support to terrorists.

However, a federal judge overturned the verdicts at the Justice Department’s request after prosecutors discovered that documents that could have helped the defense were not turned over by the government as required.

Mr. Convertino was the lead prosecutor in the case, and Mr. Smith helped in the investigation and testified for the government at the trial.

The indictment said the men conspired to keep from defense attorneys photographs of a Jordanian hospital that would have undermined the government’s argument that the purported Detroit cell made surveillance sketches of the place.

Mr. Convertino also elicited testimony from Mr. Smith and an FBI agent that the sketch matched the hospital and its surrounding area, even though the photographs contradicted that description, the indictment said.

“Mr. Convertino is a highly decorated and veteran federal prosecutor, who over many years consistently acted to preserve the safety of his community, and the Koubriti case is no different,” said his attorney, William Sullivan. “We will demonstrate that this indictment is manifestly false.”

Mr. Sullivan said the indictment was retaliation against Mr. Convertino for a pending whistleblower lawsuit. Mr. Convertino has said the government has mounted a smear campaign against him.

A call to an attorney for Mr. Smith was not returned.

Mr. Convertino also was charged with obstruction in a second case in which prosecutors said he gave false information to a judge in an effort to reduce a defendant’s sentence.

The charges against Mr. Convertino carry up to 30 years in prison, while those against Mr. Smith carry up to 20 years.

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