A Reagan-appointed federal judge thinks a secret written reprimand is too soft a punishment for a prosecutor who fails to disclose critical evidence to a defendant's attorneys. And he finds it "disturbing" that the Department of Justice would have different stances on the issue in public and private, The New York Times reports
That's why Chief Judge Michael J. Wolf of Boston sent a frustrated letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and also asked state officials to investigate the prosecutor's conduct.
Assistant US attorney Jeffrey Auerhahn quietly received a written reprimand after it became clear that he never disclosed key evidence in a 1992 mafia case where Vincent Ferrara pleaded guilty to ordering the murder of Vincent J. Limloli. Ferrara was sentenced to 22 years in prison. Wolf ordered Ferrara's release in 2005 when he found out that a key witness had told a police officer a different story than what was used as evidence against Ferrara.
Wolf also flagged Justice Department behavior in his complaint:
In a secret report in January 2005, the Office of Professional Responsibility, or O.P.R., at the Justice Department had also concluded that the memorandum contained exculpatory information and should have been turned over.
Publicly, however, the Justice Department took a different position in appealing Judge Wolfâs order releasing Mr. Ferrara. In an April 2006 brief, for instance, Justice Department lawyers said they had no duty to disclose the detectiveâs memorandum because it contained no material information.
A former federal prosecutor quoted in the story said this is highly unusual, and if the judge's statements are true, "it looks like a black mark on the department."