A federal judge in Detroit criticized prosecutors on Thursday for misleading the court, jurors and defense lawyers in the nation's first post-9/11 terrorism trial. U.S. District Judge Gerald Rosen said prosecutors made up their minds early that the men were terrorists and "simply ignored or avoided any evidence or information which contradicted or undermined that view." He said prosecutors operated outside the Constitution by concealing information that could have undermined their case. Rosen dismissed terrorism charges against two defendants. They will be retried with a third defendant on a fraudulent document charge. No trial date has been set. Rosen said the failures of the prosecutors were "prevalent and pervasive," that the defendants were denied a fair trial and that the jury might have reached a different verdict if all of the evidence had been presented. They were arrested six days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks when agents went to their southwest Detroit flat looking for a man who was on a federal terrorist watch list. The man wasn't there, but a search turned up fraudulent documents and other incriminating evidence against the new tenants. Although the prosecution relied on the evidence -- alleged terrorist targeting sketches and videotape and Islamic audiotapes -- to convict two of the defendants of terrorism, Morford's review found that prosecutors had concealed information that defense lawyers could have used to discredit the prosecution's case. The lead prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Convertino, has denied doing anything wrong, informs Detroit Free Press. According to Reuters, U.S. court on Thursday dismissed the convictions of two Arab men, the first to be prosecuted and tried on terror-related charges following the Sept. 11 attacks, after the government conceded errors in handling the case. A U.S. District Court Judge in Michigan granted the wish of the U.S. Justice Department, which said in a filing this week that prosecutors "committed a pattern of mistakes and oversights" that hindered the defendants from reviewing evidence used against them. Although it dismissed the terror-related charges, the U.S. court also ordered a new trial on the lesser document fraud convictions for the three men. "We're pleased, but disappointed," said William Swor, an attorney representing Elmardoudi. "The (government) misconduct warrants the ultimate sanction of dismissal" of the document fraud charge, he said. U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft last year heralded the Detroit convictions as a clear message that the United States would work diligently to disrupt and dismantle terrorist "sleeper cells" at home and abroad. The judge, Gerald E. Rosen, acceded to the government's request for a new trial only on document fraud charges, ending the terrorism case against the men, Abdel-Ilah Elmardoudi, 38, and Karim Koubriti, 26, both from Morocco. Judge Rosen was sharply critical of the prosecution of the case, citing a pattern of misconduct, though he did not mention Richard G. Convertino, the former lead prosecutor. "Although prosecutors and others entrusted with safeguarding us through the legal system clearly must be innovative and think outside the conventional envelope in enforcing the law and prosecuting terrorists, they must not act outside the Constitution," the judge said in his decision. "Unfortunately,'' he added, "that is precisely what has occurred in the course of this case." While criticizing the government's handling of the case, Judge Rosen praised the prosecutors, reports the NYTimes.
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