A federal prosecutor withheld crucial evidence from the defense in the first major terrorism case announced after the Sept. 11 terror attacks because he was consumed with winning a high-profile courtroom victory, Justice Department lawyers told a jury in closing arguments Tuesday at the trial here of their former colleague.

The former Michigan prosecutor, Richard G. Convertino, and a former State Department security officer, are now awaiting a jury’s verdict on charges that they conspired to hide photographs that, if shared at the 2003 trial, might have undermined the case against four North African immigrants accused of being part of a terror sleeper cell.

Two of the North African men were convicted on terrorism charges, but the convictions were overturned in 2004 amid accusations of concealed evidence and prosecutorial misconduct.

In defense closing arguments, lawyers for Mr. Convertino and the security officer, Harry R. Smith III, who are being tried together, insisted that both men had been respected government employees whose mistakes, if any, had been unintentional and reflected the extraordinary workload they faced, especially after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Mr. Convertino’s trial this month, in Federal District Court here on charges of obstruction of justice and conspiracy, has been a major embarrassment to the Justice Department, if only because the department has been forced to reveal in detail how one of its most prominent terrorism cases after Sept. 11 was bungled. (MORE)


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