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Profile: Richard Convertino
Richard Convertino was a participant or observer in the following events:
David Nahmias. [Source: US Department of Justice]US prosecutors in Detroit are trying four men accused of an al-Qaeda plot. The men, Abdel-Ilah Elmardoudi, Karim Koubriti, Ahmed Hannan, and Farouk Ali-Haimoud, were arrested shortly after 9/11. They had been living in a Detroit apartment previously occupied by Nabil al-Marabh (see September 17, 2001). Yousef Hmimssa, a Moroccan national, had lived in the Detroit apartment with al-Marabh. When the FBI raided the apartment, they found fake immigration papers linking Hmimssa and al-Marabh, along with attack plans. [ABC News 7 (Chicago), 1/31/2002] Hmimssa will later be the key witness in the trial against the four arrested Detroit men (see June 2003-August 2004). The FBI later identify three other witnesses—a landlord, a Jordanian informant, and a prison inmate—who linked the four arrested men to al-Marabh (see December 2002). The Detroit prosecutors want to charge al-Marabh as a fifth defendant. However, Deputy Assistant Attorney General David Nahmias prevents them from doing so. He says, “My understanding is that the only connection between al-Marabh and your case was an apparent misidentification by a landlord.” Additionally, memos written by Detroit prosecutors during the trial will later show that they believed the Justice Department was preventing them from introducing some of their most dramatic evidence in the trial. Lead Detroit prosecutor Richard Convertino will later say: “There was a series of evidence, pieces of evidence, that we wanted to get into our trial that we were unable to do. Things that would have strengthened the case immeasurably, and made the case much stronger, exponentially.” For instance, the FBI had learned before the trial that al-Qaeda leader Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi told US interrogators after his capture that bin Laden had authorized an attack on the US air base in Incirlik, Turkey. The FBI also found sketches in the Detroit apartment of what they believed was the same base. The prosecutors wanted to link this evidence to testimony by the al-Libi, but he was handed over to Egypt to be tortured and prosecutors were not able to interview him or use him as a witness (see January 2002 and After). Turkish authorities will later claim that their own evidence indicates bin Laden did authorize an attack on the base at one point. Detroit prosecutors also later complain that the lone Justice Department lawyer sent to help with the case had no intention of helping with the trial, and spent most of his time in Detroit staying in his hotel room or playing basketball. [Associated Press, 8/9/2004] In 2002, Chicago prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is also prohibited from charging al-Marabh with any crime (see January-2002-December 2002).
Entity Tags: US Department of Justice, Richard Convertino, Yousef Hmimssa, Nabil al-Marabh, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, David Nahmias, Abel-Ilah Elmardoudi, Ahmed Hannan, Karim Koubriti, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Farouk Ali-Haimoud
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
Clockwise from top left: Karim Koubriti, Ahmed Hannan, Abdel-Ilah Elmardoudi, and Farouk Ali-Haimoud. [Source: US Department of Corrections, via Reuters]Verdicts are announced in a trial of four men who lived in a Detroit apartment on 9/11 that had previously been rented by al-Qaeda operative Nabil al-Marabh (see September 17, 2001). Abdel-Ilah Elmardoudi and Karim Koubriti are convicted of conspiring to provide material support to terrorists and also document fraud. Ahmed Hannan is convicted of document fraud. Farouk Ali-Haimoud is cleared of all charges. Justice Department officials, including Attorney General John Ashcroft, assert the men were in an al-Qaeda sleeper cell and had plans to attack targets in the US, Jordan, and Turkey. The verdicts are hailed as the first successful post-9/11 terrorism prosecution. [Washington Post, 12/31/2003] However, the case soon begins to fall apart. The judge learns the prosecution had withheld evidence in the case, and in December 2003, orders an internal Justice Department inquiry. In August 2004, the inquiry asks the judge to throw out the convictions because of prosecutorial misconduct, which he does. For instance, it is revealed that the only witness in the trial, Youssef Hmimssa, told a fellow prisoner that he had made up all his evidence against the defendants. But the prosecution kept this information, and much more that was potentially damaging to their case, from the jury. The Washington Post later reports that the inquiry concludes “the prosecution stuck doggedly to its theory in defiance of plausible explanations and advice from other US government officials. Records suggest prosecutors withheld evidence that cast doubt on their conclusions, even when ordered by superiors to deliver documents to the defense.” By late 2005, it will be reported that a federal grand jury is investigating whether the lead prosecutor, Richard Convertino, or anyone else should be indicted. Convertino meanwhile will sue Ashcroft and other Justice Department superiors, accusing them of mismanaging the case and retaliating against him for testifying critically about the Justice Department before Congress. [Washington Post, 12/31/2003; Associated Press, 8/30/2004; Washington Post, 11/20/2005] But Convertino will later be found not guilty of withholding evidence during the trial. Furthermore, it will be revealed that key evidence withheld from the defense actually would have strengthened the prosecution’s case, not the defense case. The Associated Press will later comment that a new analysis of the evidence suggests that there may have been a Detroit sleeper cell after all (see November 1, 2007).
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. [Detroit Free Press, 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…” [Associated Press, 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. [Detroit Free Press, 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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