The Associated Press reports:
The Justice Department may have hoodwinked a defendant in a high-profile terrorism case into thinking his plea bargain would protect him from further prosecutions, a federal judge said Monday. Monday’s hearing in U.S. District Court was the latest in which Judge Leonie Brinkema questioned the Justice Department’s tactics in pursuing a criminal contempt case against former professor Sami Al-Arian, once accused of being a leading Palestinian terrorist.
Brinkema gave Al-Arian’s lawyers 10 days to file papers seeking dismissal of the case on the grounds that prosecutors failed to keep promises made under the plea bargain. She acknowledged that the protections Al-Arian wants enforced may not have been explicitly outlined in the original agreement. “But I think there’s something more important here, and that’s the integrity of the Justice Department,” she said.
The Justice Department’s handling of the Al-Arian case should be studied as a textbook case of prosecutorial abuse. The prosecutor handling the case, whose honesty and integrity were directly assailed by the court, is named Gordon Kromberg. He’s been profiled in the Wall Street Journal’s law blog and the Washington Post, both noting his tendency to disparage Arab culture and Islam in court submissions and public statements.
Kromberg is a prosecutor with the Eastern District of Virginia U.S. Attorney’s office–generally reckoned one of the most politicized in the country and a preferred venue for Bush Administration counterterrorism cases. His boss, Chuck Rosenberg, who was called in to serve as Alberto Gonzales’s chief of staff when the melt down that led to his departure started, has had only compliments for Kromberg. Kromberg has been lionized by people those who wield the term “Islamofascist,” such as Daniel Pipes, who writes “no U.S. prosecutor has a more valiant and courageous record of opposing radical Islam than Gordon Kromberg.” And he has been demonized by civil libertarians like former Senator Mike Gravel, who said he was “absolutely outraged over the injustice” of the prosecution’s conduct. But his conduct continuously runs up against the ethical limits on prosecutorial power.
Said legal ethicist Stephen Gillers of NYU Law School, in the Post article, “He’s a loose cannon. If I were the Justice Department, I wouldn’t want him on the front lines of these highly visible, highly contentious prosecutions.” The Bush Justice Department, however, was delighted to put Kromberg right on the front lines of one of its most high-profile and most problematic cases. But now the court appears to be stepping in.