Martin is US Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama--appointed by
Bush/Cheney on 9/29/01 (and one of those not fired for non-cooperation); and
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then deployed by Karl Rove to nail Don Siegelman.
Look at what she did to this guy.
From Scott Horton:
I have followed the Axion story for some time, written about it and discussed it with folks at CBS, NBC and several newspapers. It is a story from Huntsville and while it has been talked about in Washington and New York, up until today not a serious word had appeared about it in Huntsville. Today, however, the Huntsville Times ran this story by Brian Lawson, which is a responsible account of how Alice Martin destroyed a thriving Huntsville business and persecuted its owner because he was of Iranian descent. There is still much more to come out about this case, but given the conspiracy of silence in the 'Bama media, this is important.
Engineer and businessman Alex Latifi fought the federal government
and won after officials charged him with giving away military secrets to China
Vindicated Latifi proud he fought
But investigation, trial leaves Axion with no clients, no money
Sunday, April 13, 2008
By BRIAN LAWSON
Alex Latifi is a proud man and a gifted engineer. Last year he began practicing how to live in a federal prison cell.
"I get upset in small rooms," he said, "so I would go sit in the bathroom and turn off the lights to see if I could handle it."
After a federal investigation that began with a raid on his home and company in 2004, Latifi was charged in March 2007 with defrauding the U.S. government and giving away military secrets to China.
His wife wanted him to accept a plea deal that would have penalized his Huntsville-based company, Axion Corp., but kept him out of jail.
Latifi, an Iranian-born U.S. citizen, refused to plea, insisting that he could not admit guilt for something he didn't do. Instead he faced charges that would have put him, at age 60, in jail for 25 years, effectively a life sentence.
He was acquitted on all charges last October after a seven-day trial. U.S. District Judge Inge Johnson determined that the government's case - spurred by an informant who was convicted of embezzling $12,000 from Axion and forging Latifi's signature, well before the trial started - failed to meet the burden of proof.
But in facing those charges, longtime Huntsville resident Latifi has seen his business vanish, his home raided and his name soiled. His was the only one of 100 export violation cases last year that prosecutors lost.
The judge recently ordered the government to pay Latifi's legal bills, and lawyers will soon present a bill to the court estimated at $500,000, pending an appeal by the government.
'Where to go from here'
Latifi and his wife, Beth, a native of Decatur, built Axion over 24 years.
Today they have no customers, no realistic business prospects and no idea what the future holds.
"I haven't figured out where to go from here," Latifi said in an interview last week at his office on Nick Fitcheard Road.
"They've destroyed the name of my company."
Alice Martin, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, said recently that she expects the government will be successful if it's required to argue the merits of bringing the case. Martin said that the government's case wasn't focused on the testimony of informant Elizabeth Lemay, but that the judge was concerned about the classified markings - "or lack thereof" - on the document that the government argued was classified and subject to export controls.
Martin also takes a different view of the case's impact.
"We would disagree that we ruined his business."
Black Hawk part
The case centered around a bifilar weight assembly, a block of engineered tungsten, which the Army uses to reduce vibration on the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter. Axion won a bid to produce the part for the Army, and Latifi did what he built his business on: He found a way to make the part for less money with better material.
That meant buying tungsten from China, the only source for nonrecycled tungsten. He sent a portion of a drawing, essentially the dimensions for a tungsten block, to a California company with ties to China. In bringing the case, the feds argued that Latifi violated the export ban on military technology to China and that he didn't seek a license for approval.
"Leading up to the trial, I thought, 'I'm gone,' " Latifi said.
"I used to cry in the shower so my children wouldn't hear. ... I kept thinking they would grow up without me, my wife would lose the house, be sick without me, my kids would be married without me while I'm in jail - and I did nothing wrong."
The Latifis say they cannot understand how the government brought a case from a document that had no classified stamp and is similar to information already available online. Their attorneys, Henry Frohsin and Jim Barger, were able to highlight those problems and other weaknesses with the case.
They are seeking to have the judge rule that the government violated the Hyde Amendment in bringing the case, that it was frivolous and damaged the defendant.
The Latifis met at the University of Alabama in Huntsville in 1976 and married in 1979. They have four children, the youngest in high school.
The year the couple married also marked the end of the reign of the Shah of Iran, whom Latifi's father helped install on the throne in the early 1950s. The Iranian revolution wasn't kind to Latifi's father, a sheik with massive land holdings in southern Iran. The land and family fortune were confiscated, and he was jailed and died in one of Ayatollah Khomeini's prisons.
At 20 Latifi left Iran to come to the U.S., to Boaz. He couldn't speak English but was determined to study engineering and determined to live here.
When the government raided Axion in April 2004, before any charges were filed, investigators took all the company's records and computers, Beth Latifi said. That meant they had no working information to meet their orders and keep up with schedules. She said it took several weeks to get copies made and only after the couple agreed to cover the copying costs at Kinko's.
The second raid occurred in June 2006, and the next day the company's assets were frozen, she said.
"Three guys from the (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) agency show up," she said. "One of them shows me a document with our bank account numbers on it and says our assets are 'pffft.' "
The Latifis met their payroll out of their personal funds and continued to work on Axion's Army contracts, as Latifi pleaded with employees to hang on.
Relations with Iran
U.S. relations with Iran have been testy for some time, and when the indictments were announced, the assistant U.S. attorney general for national security, Kenneth L. Wainstein, was quoted in the news release stressing the government's commitment to preventing military technology from falling into the wrong hands.
Latifi attorney Frohsin said he knows why the case had such a high profile.
"An American of Iranian descent, a successful defense contractor who it appears is dealing with the Chinese on Black Hawk helicopter parts, that's all they could see and wanted to see," Frohsin said.
While under indictment, Axion was not allowed to perform government contracts. The company, which a few years earlier had a contract backlog of $35 million and 60 employees, came to a standstill.
Latifi knew that his children were confused and worried, so he insisted that they attend the trial to hear the case and see how he handled it.
From circuit boards to landing-gear parts to machine-gun mounts and Humvee seats, Axion's niche was to find ways to make products better and for less money. He gets most animated when he describes his improvements and refinements to products used by U.S. troops in Iraq.
During the trial a government contract supervisor whom Latifi worked with over the years testified to Latifi's perfectionism as an engineer. Latifi said he felt truly vindicated that his children heard that testimony.
Latifi and his attorneys say the most compelling argument for the quality of his work is that the Army used 243 of the parts the case centered on and wanted more from Axion even after Latifi was indicted.
"Others may not have had the financial capacity or the stubbornness to fight the system," Latifi said, "but I'm glad I stood up, that the case came clear and that maybe it will help the next guy."