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2 US aides indicted in concealing of evidence

DETROIT -- A former federal prosecutor and a State Department official were indicted yesterday on charges of conspiring to conceal evidence during a botched terrorism trial that proved a major embarrassment for the Bush administration.

Richard G. Convertino, 45, former assistant US attorney, and Harry Raymond Smith III, 49, State Department regional security officer, were charged with conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and making false declarations.

The indictment stemmed from the prosecution of four North African immigrants accused of operating a terrorist cell in Detroit. The case was the nation's first major terrorism trial after the 2001 attacks.

Two of the four men, Karim Koubriti and Abdel-Ilah Elmardoudi, were convicted in 2003 of conspiring to provide support to terrorists. However, a federal judge overturned the verdicts at the Justice Department's request after prosecutors discovered that documents that could have helped the defense were not turned over by the government as required.

Convertino was the lead prosecutor in the case, and Smith helped in the investigation and testified for the government at the trial. The indictment said that Convertino and Smith conspired to keep from defense lawyers photographs of a Jordanian hospital that would have undermined the government's argument that the alleged Detroit cell made surveillance sketches of the place.

Convertino also elicited testimony from Smith and an FBI agent that the sketch matched the hospital and its surrounding area, even though the photographs contradicted that description, the indictment said.

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