Attorney says federal case on Laos plot is full of lies

Feds' Laos plot case full of lies, defense lawyer says

The case against 11 men charged with plotting the violent overthrow of Laos' communist government is tainted by lies of prosecutors and agents, a veteran defense attorney told a Sacramento federal judge Monday.

"In 38 years of practicing law, I've never seen so many lies by prosecutors and agents in support of a case," attorney John Keker told U.S. District Judge Frank C. Damrell Jr.

Keker asked the judge to urge prosecutors to seek a review at the top of the Justice Department on the theory that the charges might be dropped if the truth is known at that level. In this context, Keker remarked that he happens to know new Attorney General Eric Holder.

Saying he is troubled by the unexpected development, Damrell said Keker is "a serious lawyer" and the accusations "cannot be dismissed as grandstanding."

"I've never heard anything like this before," the judge added.

"I've never seen anything like this before," Keker said.

"A colossal mistake was made," declared Keker, who said he was speaking for the entire team of defense lawyers.

A former Marine platoon leader who was wounded in Vietnam, Keker is lead defense attorney and represents Gen. Vang Pao, a leader of the Hmong community in the United States.

Assistant U.S. Attorney S. Robert Tice-Raskin, the lead prosecutor, told Damrell the U.S. attorney's office in Sacramento and the Justice Department's National Security Division "are behind this case."

If Keker feels so strongly that the government is guilty of misconduct, he should file a motion to dismiss the case, "so we can respond and litigate it," Tice-Raskin said.

The judge directed Keker to do just that, saying he wanted more than bare allegations. A briefing schedule was agreed upon and a hearing on the motion is scheduled April 6.

"Give me some documentation," Damrell instructed Keker. "I want to see something I can get my arms around. Put some meat on these bones and I'll look at it."

In response to a question from the judge, Tice-Raskin said the final authority over the conduct of the prosecution has been the assistant attorney general for national security. Until Friday that had been Matthew Olsen, a holdover from the Bush administration. On Friday, Holder appointed Olsen to head a task force to review the status of individuals detained at Guantánamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba as part of Bush's war on terror.

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