We already know that the the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility is investigating the alleged politically motivated prosecution in the case of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman (D). Today, TPMmuckraker independently verified that the OPR is looking into another complaint-- this one for prosecutorial misconduct-- involving the Northern District of Alabama's U.S. Attorney's office, specifically U.S. Attorney Alice Martin.
The new OPR investigation stems from a case involving Axion Corp., which was acquitted in October 2007 of violating the Arms Export Control Act. In an interview with TPMmuckraker this morning, Henry Frohsin, an attorney for Axion Corp., confirmed that they had sent a letter of complaint against Martin to the OPR on May 9. News of the investigation was first reported by Scott Horton, at the American Lawyer, citing anonymous sources.
"We consider this a serious case of prosecutorial misconduct that impacted the rights of the defendant," Frohsin, of the Birmingham office of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell and Berkowitz, told us, "and we intend to rigorously pursue this matter with authorities at the Department of Justice."
Frohsin also stated that a DOJ attorney had been assigned to look into their complaint.
Martin has been with the Northern District of Alabama U.S. Attorney's office since September, 2001 and originally prosecuted a bid-rigging case against Siegelman, which was thrown out due to lack of evidence. U.S. Attorney Leura Canary started the successful, but disputed, prosecution of Siegelman for federal corruption -- but mysteriously recused herself from the case before it culminated. Both Martin and Leura Canary have been named in the affidavit of Republican lawyer, Jill Simpson, who claimed to have overheard a conversation assuring Siegleman's downfall, that occurred between William Canary, a wealthy Republican donor and Leura's husband, and the son of Siegelman's opponent in the governor race.*
Martin's case against Axion Corp., began in 2007 when the company was charged with violating the Arms Export Control Act by exchanging drawings for a Blackhawk helicopter part to a Chinese manufacturer.
According to an article on the case in the Birmingham News, one of the prosecution's own witnesses stated that the drawings Axion sent to the Chinese were not marked "with customary warnings barring it from being sent to trading partners subject to arms control laws." And according to the defense, the Black Hawk drawings were also available over the Internet-- excluding them from arms-control provisions:
"Hang on, I have not heard about that before," trial judge Johnson said as Alex Latifi lawyer James Barger cross-examined a government witness on the trial's fifth day. "These drawings are on the Internet?"
Despite their crumbling case, the prosecution refused to withdraw. Judge Inge Johnson of the Federal District Court of Birmingham threw out the case, writing that the "evidence was insufficient to sustain a conviction."
The defense later filed a claim for compensation from the government-- called a Hyde motion. The defense argued that the Justice Department engaged in wrongful prosecution, and they were entitled to whatever money they spent fighting the prosecution.
And Judge Johnson agreed, ordering the Justice Department to pay the legal expenses incurred by Axion in defending itself from federal prosecution in April 2008.
From the Birmingham News:
Latifi, an engineer trained at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, will be able to collect about $500,000 in expenses, said his Birmingham attorney, Henry Frohsin. Latifi contends that he was selected for prosecution under arms-export laws because of his ethnic background.
And apparently the DOJ immediately started covering its tracks:
Johnson's ruling also said the government has withdrawn its request for a certification from the court endorsing the asset seizure as having had a reasonable cause. That eliminates any chances for Axion's lawyers to demand a hearing to examine the Justice Department's memos, legal papers and investigative methods, said Frohsin, a lawyer with the Birmingham office of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz.
[Late Update]: This post has been changed from its original form to reflect the accurate roles of Alice Martin and Leura Canary in the prosecution of Don Siegelman.