Conviction Of 2
- Prosecutor Criminally Investigated For Frame-up
Issue 27, Winter 2005, page 7
In early June 2003 the news media around the world reported on the
conviction of two men in Detroit for providing “material
support” for terrorism. 1
It was the first
federal terrorism trial after September 11, 2001. The men, Karim
Koubriti and Abdel-Ilah Elmaroudi, both Moroccan immigrants, were
prosecuted along with two other men also charged with, but acquitted of
the terrorism charges. Those men were Ahmed Hannan and Farouk
Ali-Haimoud. The four men were also prosecuted for document fraud
(possessing false identification papers), and all the men except for
Ali-Haimoud were convicted of those charges. The jury had deliberated
for six days before announcing its verdicts.
The prosecution relied primarily on a single witness and several
sketches in a day planner to obtain the men’s convictions.
witness was Youssef Hmimssa, a Moroccan forger illegally in the U.S.
who had been convicted of stolen credit card charges. He testified
concerning the defendant’s attempt to recruit him into their
scheme to overthrow the Algerian government. Hmimssa claimed they
wanted to take advantage of his skills as a forger and credit card
thief to send weapons and money to Algeria. 2
He also said
Koubriti and Hannan talked about poisoning airline passengers at the
Detroit Metro Airport, and that “Al-Haimoud talked about
Osama bin Laden and killing Jews, Christians and wrong-thinking
U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft was pleased with the convictions
that he described as breaking a terrorist sleeper cell intended to
secure weapons and attack targets in this and other countries. He said,
“I congratulate the prosecutors and agents who worked
on this case.” 4
Ashcroft also noted that the case demonstrated the Justice
Department’s commitment to “detect, disrupt and
the activities of terrorist cells in the United States and
However the three convicted defendants rained on the
congratulatory back-slapping by filing a pre-sentence motion for a new
trial that claimed the prosecution, headed by Assistant United States
Attorney (AUSA) Richard Convertino, had concealed exculpatory evidence
and witnesses, and offered tainted testimony, all of which undermined
the veracity of the convictions. In response to the
contentions, U.S. District Judge Gerald Rosen ordered the Justice
Department to respond after fully reviewing the information available
to it about the government’s investigation and prosecution of
defendants. After receiving that order, Detroit’s U.S.
removed from the case, AUSA Convertino and his superior, AUSA Keith
Corbett (head of Detroit’s Organized Crime Strike Force). 6
While the government prepared its response to their motion, the three
defendants remained in custody – trapped in limbo between
conviction and sentencing.
On August 31, 2004 the government filed a 60 page response to the
defendant’s motion for a new trial. It requested that Judge
vacate all the convictions, and then order a retrial of the three
defendants on the document fraud charges. At the same time the
government said it would drop the terrorism charges against the men.
The government justified dropping the terrorism charges by conceding
that prosecutor Convertino had withheld potentially exculpatory
evidence from the defense. That evidence included:
· In a December 2001 letter
Convertino concealed from the defendants, Youssef wrote to another man
he had been in jail with, that everything he told law enforcement
authorities about the defendant’s had been made up: Youssef
wrote, “how he lied to the FBI, how he fool’d the
Service agent on his case.” 7
trial testimony was based on what he said Ali-Haimoud, Hannan and
Koubriti talked about while he was in jail with them, after their
arrests on September 17, 2001.
· Contrary to prosecution
during the trial, some officials, including a CIA expert, disagreed
that a day planner found during a search of the defendant’s
apartment contained case sketches of potential terrorist targets. 8
One of the
sketches of an alleged target, e.g., actually resembled a free-hand
sketch of the Middle East.
· Prosecutor Convertino told
the judge and the
defendants that the government didn’t have a photo of an
facility that it claimed was depicted as a target in the day planner,
when it did have a photo of it, and it didn’t resemble the
planner sketch introduced into evidence at the trial.
· Prosecutor Convertino
concealed a witness
statement from the defendants in which a former roommate of two of the
defendants described them as lazy drunks who smoked and never talked
about religion. That description of the men’s lifestyle
contradicted Convertino’s courtroom characterization of the
as devote Muslims engaged in a religious “jihad”
the West. If they were devote Muslims involved in anti-Western
activities, they would not have behaved as decadent Westerners. 9
On September 2, 2004 Judge Rosen vacated the three
convictions and ordered that they be retried only on the document fraud
charges. In his order, Judge Rosen wrote, “Certainly, the
front of the war on terrorism is a battle that must be fought and won
in the courts, but it must be won in accordance with the rule of
He wrote, that the prosecution’s desire to convict the
defendant’s “overcame not only its professional
but its broader obligations to the justice system and the rule of law.
It is an inescapable conclusion that the defendant’s due
process, confrontation and fair trial rights were violated. There is at
least a reasonable probability that the jury’s verdict would
been different had constitutional standards been met.” 11
Justice Department then motioned the trial court to dismiss the
document fraud charges. With those charges dismissed, the four men
were exonerated of all the charges filed against them after federal law
enforcement officers raided their Detroit apartment on September 17,
The lead prosecutor in the men’s trial, AUSA Convertino, is
federal criminal investigation for his handling of the case. Based on
the Justice Department’s admissions in its response of August
2004, Convertino’s actions may have amounted to nothing less
orchestrating the deliberate frame-up of four men he had every reason
to believe were innocent of the terrorism charges - because there was
no evidence they were guilty - except for what he is under
investigation for possibly contriving.
An interesting twist in the case is that AUSA Convertino filed a
whistle-blower lawsuit against Attorney General John Ashcroft and the
Justice Department in February 2004. Among his claims is that agency
officials in Washington D.C. frustrated his efforts to convict the four
defendants by “gross mismanagement” and a
support and cooperation,” and they are using him as the
for the collapse of any basis for the terrorism charges brought against
the four men. 12
At this point it is unknown if there is any merit to
claim of negative interference by his superiors in Washington D.C.
However his assertion is undermined by the vehemence with which the
conviction of the four defendants was pursued by the Justice
Department, which at least tacitly approved of Convertino’s
untoward tactics, and by Judge Rosen’s public admonishment of
Ashcroft’s public comments about the case that exhibited
distressing lack of care” for the due process right of the
defendants to a fair trial. 13
The apparent support by Convertino’s superiors for his
“win at all costs” strategy supports that he is
the scapegoat for the botched terrorism prosecutions. If
isn’t in that role because of his constitutionally
tactics, but because he is the lowest man on the prosecution totem pole
who can legitimately be pinned with approving those tactics. After all,
although John Ashcroft was quick to bask in the glory of having
Koubriti and Elmaroudi’s terrorism convictions occur during
tenure as attorney general, it is inconceivable that would ever
publicly admit that the order to fabricate and conceal evidence in
their case came from him or one of his leautenants – even if
Just as with the “terrorism” cases of Brandon
Oregon, Sami Omar Al-Hussayen in Idaho, and James Yee in Florida, 14
there was no
substance to the government’s accusation that Karim Koubriti,
Abdel-Ilah Elmaroudi, Ahmed Hannan and Abdel-Ilah Elmaroudi were
involved in international terrorism. The only terror that existed was
the federal government’s terrorization of innocent people.
Federal prosecutors, however, are continuing to try and draw blood to
justify the millions of dollars that were spent investigating,
prosecuting and jailing the four men for the insubstantial terrorism
charges. In December 2004, Karim Koubriti and Ahmed Hannan were
indicted for allegedly filing a fraudulent $2,500 insurance claim after
a July 2001 automobile accident. As of February 2005, the trial of the
men is scheduled for June 7, 2005. 15
See, 18 U.S.C.
2339(a). In Issue 25, Justice:Denied reported on the 17 month
imprisonment of Sami Omar Al-Hussayen related to his unfounded
prosecution for allegedly providing "material support" in the promotion
of terrorism by allegedly offering his "expert advice or assistance" as
a website designer for a terrorist organization that actually
disseminated Islamic related news and information.
trial ended in June 2004 with an acquittal of the terrorism related
charges, and a hung jury on charges related to his volunteer work on
the website when his student visa prohibited working in the U.S. See,
Innocent Muslim Student Prosecuted as a Terrorist and Jailed for 17
Months, Hans Sherrer, Justice:Denied, Issue 25, Summer 2004, p. 10.
Two Guilty in
Detroit Terror Trial, Newsmax Wires, June 4, 2003.
U.S. to Seek
Dismissal of Terrorism Convictions, Allan Lengel and Susan Schmidt, The
Washington Post, September 1, 2004, p. A02.
dismisses terrorism charges against two men in Detroit, Associated
Press, Detroit Free Press, September 2, 2004.
U.S. to Seek
Dismissal of Terrorism Convictions, supra.
dismisses terrorism charges against two men in Detroit, supra.
U.S. to Seek
Dismissal of Terrorism Convictions, supra.
See, The Innocent
Are Menaced by the “War on Terror”, Hans Sherrer,
Justice:Denied, Issue 25, Summer 2004, p. 10.
Fraud trial set for
two former terror suspects, David Shepardson, The Detroit News, January