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Federal prosecutor arraigned on obstruction of justice charges
Free Press
BY DAVID ASHENFELTER
April 22, 2006

A former federal prosecutor and a State Department agent were arraigned Friday in Detroit on obstruction of justice charges, accused of misleading a jury in the first terrorism trial to result from the federal probe of the 9/11 attacks.

Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Convertino, 45, and Harry Smith III, 49, stood mute to the charges before U.S. Magistrate Judge Donald Scheer in federal court. Scheer entered not guilty pleas on their behalf and freed the men on $25,000 unsecured bonds. He also ordered them to surrender their passports.

The jury convicted two men of terrorism charges in the 2003 trial, but the U.S. Attorney's Office persuaded the trial judge to throw out the convictions the next year, saying Convertino withheld key evidence from the defense. The reversal was an embarrassment for the Bush administration, which had hailed the convictions as a victory in the war on terror.

Smith, formerly assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Amman, Jordan, is accused of lying to the jury about the existence of photographs taken of a Jordanian military hospital. Prosecution witnesses, including Smith, testified that the photographs matched an alleged terrorist targeting sketch found in the defendant's flat.

The government now says the photographs, had they been presented at trial, would have contradicted the witnesses' testimony.

If convicted, Convertino could face up to 30 years in prison and a $1-million fine; Smith would face 20 years and a $750,000 fine. The case isn't likely to go to trial until late this year or in 2007.

Contact DAVID ASHENFELTER at 313-223-4490 or ashenf@freepress.com.

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