356: The Prosecutor
May 30, 2008
A lawyer in the Justice Department gets the professional opportunity of a lifetime: To be the lead prosecutor in one of the first high-profile terrorist cases since 9/11. But things go badly for him.
His convictions get overturned, he loses his job, and he ends up on trial himself, in federal court. His accusers? His former colleagues at the Justice department.
- Host Ira Glass recalls the case of the so-called Detroit Sleeper Cell—four men, arrested in the weeks after 9/11, accused of plotting terrorist attacks. Ira explains that the entire program will be devoted to the story of the man who prosecuted the case...an up-and-coming prosecutor in the Department of Justice, Richard G. Convertino. (1 minute)
- Reporter Petra Bartosiewicz tells the first half of Rick Convertino's story. The Detroit Sleeper case was one of the earliest Justice Department victories in the war on terror. But that victory was overturned, and you could argue that the thing that overturned it was that most banal yet powerful of forces: Office politics. (29 minutes)
- Reporter Petra Bartosiewicz's story continues. Tensions between Rick and his bosses at the Justice Department escalate: They demote him, he sues them, they put him on trial for criminal misconduct, in the very same federal court house where we won the Sleeper Cell case. (26 minutes)
Petra is writing a book on this and other Justice Department cases in the war on terror called The Best Terrorists We Could Find.
This drawing, allegedly of an American airbase in Turkey, was one of the central—and most contested—pieces of evidence during the terrorism trial. The prosecution said it showed the exact planes and take-off pattern at the American base at Incirlik. The defense? They said the drawing was the delusional doodles of a raving schizophrenic.