Dec 15, 2003
Last week, an emergency hearing was held, halting the sentencing phase of a high profile terror case in Detroit. It turns out the prosecutors hid evidence which might very well have exonerated the defendants.
Last June, in federal court in Detroit, three men were convicted of document fraud and conspiring to provide material support for terrorists. Now, the sentences of all three have been delayed indefinitely.
The judge in the case, Gerald Rosen, criticized the government prosecutors for not turning over the evidence to the defense lawyers, but has not yet ruled. However he rules on the appeal, the fact is, the government was caught with its pants down.
From the beginning, the government's case against these men was flimsy. It was based almost completely on posters and newspapers found in their apartment which were sympathetic to the Palestinian cause – and on the testimony of one witness, Youssef Hmimssa, who lived with them briefly before they were arrested.
Hmimssa testified against these men, saying they had plotted terror. In exchange, he got very light sentences in his own document and credit card fraud convictions.
Now, it turns out that the prosecutors, Keith Corbett and Richard Convertino, had at least two pieces of evidence that contradict Hmimssa's testimony and raise questions about his truthfulness. By law, they're required to share such evidence with the defense. Instead, it was hidden until after the trial ended in conviction.
One was a letter prosecutors received in December 2001 – one month after the men were arrested – from a man who'd spent time in jail with Hmimssa. In it, he stated that Hmimssa told him he'd made his whole story up. This man offered to take a lie detector test and provide notes. He was never taken up on the offer.
Another was records of FBI interviews with another former roommate of the defendants, Zouaier Rouissi, who said the men NEVER discussed politics or terrorism.
The man who wrote the letter, Butch Jones, a convicted drug gang leader, certainly had nothing to gain from hurting the prosecution's case, and in fact had a lot to lose. This can be seen from what happened to Rouissi after the FBI interviewed him. Unlike Hmimssa, who committed numerous serious crimes and got off with practically nothing after cooperating with prosecutors, Rouissi has been deported – for marriage fraud, that is, getting married to stay in the country.
The prosecutors say they never turned over the evidence because it didn't seem important enough to make a difference in the defense's case.
That's obviously another lie. Taken together, they would have shot a big hole in the only serious piece of evidence the prosecution had: Hmimssa's testimony.
The government obviously wanted a "terror" conviction in some case – any case – so much that they made up evidence and hid other evidence revealing this. Even so, the defendants weren't convicted of anything real – not committing terror acts, but only of planning to help some unnamed persons commit some unknown terror acts, at some unspecified time in the future.
This is the so-called democratic freedom that the government pretends to uphold. Another lie!