By Joshua Goodman | AP
Feb. 23, 2021 at 10:43 p.m. GMT+1
MIAMI — Federal prosecutors in New York acknowledged telling a “flat lie” to a criminal defendant’s legal team while trying to downplay their mishandling of evidence in the botched trial of a businessman accused of violating U.S. sanctions on Iran.
The embarrassing revelations about what many consider the U.S.’ top criminal investigating office were contained in a dozens of private text messages, transcripts, and correspondence unsealed Monday, over the objection of prosecutors, at the request of The Associated Press.
The release of the records followed a ruling last week in which U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan urged the Justice Department to open an internal probe into possible misconduct by prosecutors in the terrorism and international narcotics unit in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.
While Judge Nathan found no evidence that prosecutors intentionally withheld evidence from lawyers representing an Iranian banker, Ali Sadr Hashemi Nejad, she said they made a “deliberate attempt to obscure” the truth and attempted to “bury” a key document that might have helped the defense.
The mistakes were serious enough that even after winning a conviction, prosecutors dropped all charges against Sadr.
The documents unsealed Monday provide a detailed look at how the case against Sadr began to unravel in the span of a few, turbulent hours last March as the trial was nearing completion.
On a Friday night, a bank record surfaced that the line prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jane Kim, wanted to introduce as evidence. But she realized she hadn’t yet shared it with Sadr’s attorneys, a potential violation of rules intended to ensure a fair trial.