A former federal prosecutor facing criminal charges over his handling of a high-profile terrorism trial demanded Wednesday that the Detroit Free Press reveal its sources as part of his lawsuit against the government.
A lawyer for Richard Convertino, a former assistant U.S. attorney in Detroit, subpoenaed the information from the paper’s owner, Gannett Co., based in McLean, Va.
Convertino was the lead prosecutor in the nation’s first post-Sept. 11 terrorism trial. He won convictions of three of the four defendants in 2003, but the verdicts were overturned the following year at the request of the government, which said prosecutors had failed to turn over some documents that could have aided the defense.
The Justice Department was investigating Convertino’s handling of the terrorism case and two 1990s drug cases when he resigned last year. In March, he was indicted on charges of conspiracy, obstruction of justice and making false declarations.
Wednesday’s subpoena is part of a lawsuit Convertino filed in 2004 in federal court in Washington against the Justice Department. He accuses officials there of violating the federal Privacy Act by leaking information about him to the Free Press.
The subpoena demands that Gannett provide the names of anonymous Justice Department officials cited in a January 2004 Free Press article.
Gannett spokeswoman Tara Connell said the company had just begun to review the subpoena and had no comment. Messages were left for Free Press lawyer Herschel Fink.
In a letter to Gannett, Convertino’s lawyer Stephen Kohn said the sources who revealed the information did not deserve to be protected because the information they shared was meant only to smear Convertino.
“There is no public interest whatsoever, or journalistic interest, in assisting the government in acting in a totalitarian fashion,” he said in a telephone interview from Washington.
Kohn said the Justice Department investigated the leak to the Free Press, interviewing 30 people identified as having access to the information. All denied giving information to the paper.