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02-17-2004, 08:07 PM
By JOHN SOLOMON, AP

WASHINGTON (Feb. 17) - A federal prosecutor in a major terrorism case in Detroit has taken the rare step of suing Attorney General John Ashcroft, alleging the Justice Department interfered with the case, compromised a confidential informant and exaggerated results in the war on terrorism.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Convertino of Detroit accused the Justice Department of "gross mismanagement" of the war on terrorism in a lawsuit filed late Friday in federal court in Washington.

Justice officials said Tuesday they had not seen the suit and had no comment.

The suit is the latest twist in the Bush administration's first major post-Sept. 11 terrorism prosecution, which is now in danger of unraveling over allegations of prosecutorial misconduct.

Convertino came under internal Justice Department investigation last fall after providing information to a Senate committee about his concerns about the war on terror. His testimony came just months after he helped convict some members of an alleged terrorism cell in Detroit.

The government now admits it failed to turn over evidence during the trial that might have assisted the defense, including an allegation from an imprisoned drug gang leader who claimed the government's key witness made up his story.

Convertino is seeking damages under the Privacy Act, alleging he has been subjected to an internal investigation as retaliation for his cooperation with the Senate and that information from the internal probe was wrongly leaked to news media.

The lawsuit states Convertino first complained to his superiors more than a year ago about Justice's interference in the Detroit terrorism trial, saying Washington supervisors "had continuously placed perception over reality to the serious detriment of the war on terror."

The lawsuit includes excerpts of an e-mail from another prosecutor in the case that Convertino says "identified some of the gross mismanagement which was negatively impacting the ability of the United States to obtain convictions in a major terrorist case."