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Tag: OPR

Judge Tosses Ex-Fed Prosecutor’s Case Against Justice Dept.

Ex-Prosecutor Richard Convertino

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department won a legal battle against one of its own.

A D.C. federal judge on Thursday dismissed a whistleblower lawsuit by ex-Detroit federal prosecutor Richard Convertino against the Justice Department. The lawsuit alleged that the Justice leaked damaging information about an internal Justice probe into Convertino.

U.S. District Judge Royce C.  Lamberth ruled that  Convertino, after seven years, had failed to show that a Justice Department employee had leaked to  Detroit Free Press  reporter David Ashenfelter information about a Justice Department Office of Professional Responsibility Probe into Covertino’s actions during a high-profile terrorism case.  Ashenfelter published a story about the probe.

The ruling was first reported in the Detroit News.

“Despite seven years of dedicated effort, Convertino is no closer to identifying the source(s) of the leak today than he was when this litigation commenced,” the judge wrote in a ruling.

“In sum, Convertino has made a monumental effort to identify Ashenfelter’s source(s) and has had absolutely no success. Moreover, OIG (Office of Inspector General) conducted its own extensive investigation into the identity of the source(s) and was equally unsuccessful. After seven years of litigation, then, Convertino cannot answer the question that lies at the heart of [his] case.”

David Ashenfelter

“Without knowledge of the leaker’s identity, Convertino cannot establish that DOJ acted willfully or intentionally,” the ruling said.

Convertino convicted three people who were suspected of being part of a terrorist sleeper cell in Detroit. They were arrested right after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, and the case became national news.

In fact, then-Attorney Gen.  John Ashcroft mistakenly said initially that the men had prior knowledge of the Sept. 11 attacks.  He later corrected the misstatement.

But the convictions were overturned and he was criminally charged with misconduct in the case.  He was eventually acquitted. The entire case created serious tensions in the Detroit U.S. Attorney’s Office.

During the course of his whistleblower lawsuit, Convertino deposed Ashenfelter, a Pulitzer prize winning reporter, but failed to get him to disclose his source.

Convertino continually insisted during the lawsuit that a particular assistant U.S. Attorney had leaked the info to the Free Press. But an internal Justice Department probe failed to confirm that.

Herschel Fink, attorney for the Free Press, told Free Press reporter Joe Swickard that the decision was “a very good development for journalism … and the ability for a journalist to protect his sources.”

The Free Press said Convertino, who is in private practice, did not return calls for comment.

Read Opinion

Atty. Gen. Holder Announces New Professional Misconduct Review Unit

Eric Holder Jr./ticklethewire.com file photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department has created a “Professional Misconduct Review Unit” to handle disciplinary actions for career attorneys at the department resulting from Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) investigations.

Attorney Gen. Eric Holder Jr., in announcing the new unit on Tuesday, said it will be headed up by Kevin Ohlson,who has served as Chief of Staff and Counselor to Holder since February 2009.

OPR investigates allegations of professional misconduct involving Department attorneys. The new unit will review OPR findings of reckless professional misconduct and determine whether evidence supports those findings. The United States Attorneys (EOUSA) will still refer findings of “poor judgment or mistake” to the appropriate U.S. Attorney for appropriate action.

“The current procedures for resolving these disciplinary matters consume too much time, and risk inconsistent resolutions, but this new Unit will help change that by providing consistent, fair, and timely resolution of these cases,” Holder said.

“In the vast majority of cases, Department attorneys meet their professional obligations but when allegations of misconduct occur, all parties deserve a fair and timely resolution. This Unit will be instrumental in achieving that goal and will also further the Department’s mission of meeting its ethical obligations in every case.”

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Mary F. Rook Named Head of FBI’s Anchorage Office

Mary Rook/fbi photo By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Mary F. Rook, the chief in the FBI’s Training Division’s Law Enforcement Programs Section, will head the Anchorage Division, the agency announced Wednesday.

Rook began her FBI career in the laboratory as a serology technician in 1984. She became a special agent two years later and was assigned to the Milwaukee Division.

In 1990, she transferred to the Los Angeles Division where she investigated Mexican drug trafficking organizations.

Read more »

Former ICE Official Charged with Scamming Govt out of $582,000 in Salary Scheme With Wife

iceBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

A former assistant special agent in charge for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in California was arrested Friday on charges that he scammed the government by approving $582,000 in salary and benefits for his wife, who virtually did no work, the Los Angeles U.S. Attorney’s Office announced.

Authorities said that Frank Eugene Johnston, 51, surrendered to special agents with ICE’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR). He had retired in August 2009 after 31 years in federal law enforcement.

The indictment alleges that he approved the bogus salary for his wife Taryn Johnston while they were at ICE and its predecessor agency, the Immigration and Naturalization Service. She was also taken into custody on charges that she lied to ICE OPR investigators by saying she worked for the pay.

Taryn Johnston, 53, had worked as an immigration enforcement agent and then as an intelligence research specialist for the law enforcement agencies .

The indictment alleges that Frank Johnston became his wife’s supervisor and in 2002 and assigned her to “an isolated INS sub-office, approximately six blocks away from the INS main office in Los Angeles.”

Soon after that, she stopped going to work and Frank Johnston approved her time sheets, which “frequently also claimed premium pay for overtime and holiday hours,” authorities charged.

Terri Tollefson, special agent in charge for the ICE Office of Professional Responsibility in Los Angeles, said in a statement: “As this indictment makes clear, ICE takes charges of employee misconduct seriously and we will aggressively investigate any allegations that arise. We hold our employees to the highest standards of professional and personal integrity. Guarding against illegal or unethical behavior is not an option; it is an obligation we have to the people we serve.”

Career Prosecutor Mary Patrice Brown to Head Justice Dept. Office of Professional Responsibility

us-capitolBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com
WASHINGTON — As part of a shake up in the Justice Department, career prosecutor Mary Patrice Brown will head up the Office of Professional Responsibilty, an internal unit first established in 1975 following the Watergate scandal to police ethical breaches.

Atty. Gen. Eric Holder Jr. announced that Brown would serve as acting head on Wednesday at a time the Department is facing tough scruitiny and sharp criticism over the handling of the prosecution of ex-Sen. Ted Stevens.

U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan dropped the Stevens conviction on Tuesday at the request of the Justice Department, which conceded that the prosecution had acted improperly.

Brown, who has been with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in D.C. since 1989, became the chief of the office’s criminal division in 2007. Over the years that office has handled a number of high profile cases.

From 2004 to 2007, Brown was the Executvie Assistant U.S. Attorney for Operations, where she oversaw civil and criminal cases, according to a Justice Department press release.

From 2002 to 2004, she was deputy of the Fraud and Public Corruption Section.

“She’s got great judgment, unimpeachable integrity and a tremendous reputation around town,” Kenneth L. Wainstein, who worked with Brown as U.S. Attorney during the Bush years, told the Washington Post. “She understands the stresses and strains in litigation, but also understands the importance of following the rules.”

James Cooper, a former assistant U.S. Attorney in the D.C. office told the Washington Post that Brown “is a person of utmost integrity, and I think she will be very effective in that position.”

She replaces H. Marshall Jarrett, who will head the Executive Office for United States Attorneys, the Justice Department said.