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Retired U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson — who grabbed headlines and criticism for his caustic comments about Microsoft during the Microsoft antitrust trial — is still full of surprises. Jackson said last week he is willing to testify for former D.C. federal prosecutor G. Paul Howes, who faces serious ethics charges filed this month by the D.C. Bar Counsel for a witness-voucher scandal stemming from Howes’ prosecution of the Newton Street Crew more than a dozen years ago. Jackson presided over the trial of that D.C. gang’s leaders in 1994, but he recused himself in 2000 from hearing the defendants’ request for a new trial after Howes’ alleged misconduct came to light. Jackson stated in his recusal that the allegations “if true, undermine confidence in the trial verdict” and also “could expose the lead prosecutors to criminal liability.” Both the Bar Counsel and a 1998 Justice Department report found Howes disbursed more than $140,000 in federal witness vouchers to 132 people during the Newton Street trial and another gang trial, making improper payments to incarcerated witnesses, friends, and relatives of witnesses, and former police officers. After his recusal, the sentences Jackson doled out to all six Newton Street defendants, including multiple life sentences for four of them, were significantly reduced because of Howes’ misconduct. So why would Jackson want to testify for Howes now? “I’m not going to discuss it in view of the fact I may be a witness in the case,” says Jackson, who retired from the bench in 2004 and is now of counsel at D.C. firm Jackson & Campbell. D.C. defense attorney Plato Cacheris, who represents Howes, said last week he hasn’t yet decided whether to call Jackson to testify at a hearing in Howes’ case scheduled for April 11. Cacheris says there is no evidence any witness testimony was altered or that Howes benefited financially from the witness-voucher payments. Howes, who could face sanctions, including disbarment, did not return phone calls seeking comment last week. He resigned from the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s Office in 1995 and is now a partner at Lerach Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins in San Diego.
Brendan Smith can be contacted at [email protected].

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