The Alex Latifi trial was potholed with crazy.
April 1, 2009 9:45 AM   Subscribe

The Curious Case of Alex Latifi. "We don’t care if Latifi is innocent. Our goal is to put him out of business." Feds knock; a business is lost: all charges dropped years after the company was charged with violating U.S. export law by sending to China classified drawings of an Army Black Hawk helicopter part and falsifying related tests. "It appears that the principal offense committed by the defendant, Alex Latifi, was breathing while being of Middle Eastern extraction.”
Preparing for trial, Latifi’s lawyers were stunned by the first entry in the lead investigator’s official notebook. “It said Latifi was a Democrat and gave $30,000 to a Demo­cratic politician’s charity for abused children.”
Maybe he needed some lobbyists: “The prosecutors said they knew Alex must be guilty of fraud,” Warren says. “How else could he afford to make Cadillac parts for Kia prices?”
posted by Non Prosequitur (17 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Trading arms while brown. He should have known better.

Anyway, it's a good job this issue has come under the spotlight in case the Chinese acquire the ability to reverse engineer technology.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:57 AM on April 1, 2009

Sadly very believable. Although his skin color certainly didn't help, I think Latifi's own assessment is more correct: his sin was undercutting the big contractors, who have more money than God and more friends in high places than you could possibly imagine. Somewhere, someone — probably someone with some political capital to burn after 2004 — decided that they'd lost their last contract to him and decided to play hardball.

Government procurement, especially defense procurement, is the ultimate sausage factory. It is the abyss that the rest of Washington, especially those who get there by way of elections, tiptoe carefully around lest they fall in.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:21 AM on April 1, 2009 [3 favorites]

The feds just dropped the case against Ted Stevens due to prosecutor misconduct, rather then try to fight an appeal, and they're going to launch an OPR review of the prosecutors.

Now, it's probably the case that the prosecutors in this case were way out of line, but it's a little fucked up that the one time they decide to start worrying about "misconduct" by U.S. Attorneys is when you have just about the most well connected defendant imaginable.
posted by delmoi at 10:47 AM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Martin was appointed U.S. attorney for northern Alabama by President George W. Bush and took office 18 days after 9/11. In 2007 an Alabama GOP operative testified before a House Judiciary Committee that Martin and another Alabama U.S. attorney wrongly prosecuted former Democratic Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman at the behest of Bush’s deputy chief of staff, Karl Rove.

Oh wow, it was the same U.S. Attorneys that were involved in the Siegelman prosecution.
posted by delmoi at 10:54 AM on April 1, 2009

I thought "potholed with crazy" was MeFi snark, but it's actually in the ABA Journal article. The article is just filled with amazing material:

Frohsin decided against a jury, fearing escalating casualties in Iraq might spark bias against a defendant from the Middle East. He was further convinced by several courtroom spectators: They often wore matching polo shirts; they muttered “ass- hole” and “bastard” whenever Bar­­ger or Frohsin stood up. A courthouse staffer who approached an unruly group member says the man growled and yipped like a rabies-riddled Yorkie.

Frohsin called them “nutjobs.”

They were not nutjobs. They were government employees who worked for the Defense Contract Manage­ment Agency, the federal agency charged with supervising defense contractors, from titans like KBR and Halliburton to mom-and-pops.

posted by jonp72 at 11:17 AM on April 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

This is the same GOP prosecutor that went after Don Siegelman in a politically motivated prosecution.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:24 AM on April 1, 2009

This makes me worry about all the Bush DOJ appointees who are just as political, just as overzealous, but have enough wits not to attach their names to cases this obviously flawed.

I don't think we'll ever fully understand just how much damage Bush has done to this country.
posted by ScotchRox at 11:37 AM on April 1, 2009

I don't think we'll ever fully understand just how much damage Bush has done to this country.

which is itself part of the damage he's done this country.
posted by geos at 12:11 PM on April 1, 2009 [6 favorites]

Prosecutors have incredible power and when they abuse that power they can ruin people's lives. Putting politically motivated prosecutors into power was one of W's lowest acts. Kanye said Bush doesn't care about black people. Actually, Bush doesn't care about people.
posted by caddis at 12:16 PM on April 1, 2009

I'm having a hard time finding that first quote in the post - "We don’t care if Latifi is innocent. Our goal is to put him out of business." Where is it?
posted by koeselitz at 1:14 PM on April 1, 2009

I vote that "Abandon hope all ye who enter here" should replace the Emma Lazarus poem on the Statue of Liberty.
posted by tommasz at 1:29 PM on April 1, 2009

I'm having a hard time finding that first quote in the post - "We don’t care if Latifi is innocent. Our goal is to put him out of business." Where is it?

Two or three paragraphs below the photograph of the four lawyers.
posted by suedehead at 1:57 PM on April 1, 2009

and there is a pretty significant correction regarding the quote at the end of the article
posted by caddis at 2:24 PM on April 1, 2009

If Estes referred to him as 'a criminal' after the acquittal, he's guilty of slander at the least. I can't tell when he was quoted with that.
posted by BrotherCaine at 8:45 PM on April 1, 2009

Thanks for posting this, NP. I'm Iranian-American and I hadn't heard anything about it. It's truly amazing what the gov't can do to citizens, particularly if they have the misfortune of being of Middle Eastern heritage. I wonder if now that the thug's gone and our guy's in office there will be fewer of these incidents
posted by Devils Slide at 11:40 PM on April 1, 2009

Reading all the links, it seems to me that the middle-eastern heritage thing is a red herring. The fear was that he wouldn't get a fair jury trial in AL because he was Iranian-American, which I guess is understandable. But the case itself was the result of the spite of a lying scumbucket of an informant, the hubris of an overzealous U.S. Attorney, and the bad will of a group of DOD defense contractor cronies.

I hope Latifi wins his Hyde Amendment lawsuit.
posted by moonbiter at 3:06 AM on April 2, 2009

Latifi's real "crime" was efficiently producing inexpensive parts. That he also was a Muslim Iranian-American meant added hate and drooling here, but didn't have anything to do with Martin's decision to prosecute, I bet.

His donation to a Democratic charity did, though.

This kind of shit shames all of us.
posted by QIbHom at 7:50 AM on April 2, 2009

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