Washington, D.C. U.S. Attorney Ron Machen announced Monday he will leave his job as D.C.’s top prosecutor at the end of the month, saying in a statement that he intends to return to private practice.
On the same day, Machen sent a letter to top defense attorneys in the district outlining flaws in what he called an “imperfect” data management system used by the Metropolitan Police Department to provide police reports to prosecutors.
Problems with the system, called I/LEADS, led to information from police reports being withheld from prosecutors, who in turn could not relay the information to defendants and their attorneys.
In the letter, which was obtained by the Washington City Paper, Machen wrote that police could enter information into the system, and at no fault of their own, the information would not appear in the reports sent to prosecutors.
This revelation sent members of Machen’s staff and the MPD IT staff into overdrive over the weekend poring through thousands of potentially affected cases dating as far back as 2011.
In December of 2011, the MPD began using the I/LEADS data management system alongside another system, before I/LEADS became the MPD’s sole data management system in September 2012.
“I/LEADS proved over the course of its operation to be an imperfect system, and is now due to be supplanted by a new data management system in August 2015,” Machen wrote in his letter.
The USAO recognized the problem with their system when police reports for a recent case prosecuted by the D.C. Office of the Attorney General did not include all of the information provided in the I/LEADS system. Further investigation of the system revealed a series of similar discrepancies in other cases, the letter states.
The organizations “immediately recognized the ramifications of the problem,” according to the letter. Though Machen claims in the letter that the information omitted from the I/LEADS database was “minimal in quantity,” he conceded that it was possible the failure of the system led the government to fall short in its obligations and immediate action was necessary.
The USAO has placed its attention on “priority cases” set for trial or sentencing beginning with the week of March 16, 2015. The USAO will review all cases, at whatever stage in the legal process, possibly affected by the issue.
Still unclear, though, is how this will effect the local D.C. judicial system.
Machen, who was nominated by President Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate in February of 2011, has served longer than any U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C. since 1979.
His resignation occurs simultaneously with the departure of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who is expected to be replaced by Loretta Lynch later this week.
Requests for comment were not immediately returned from the District’s Office of the Attorney General and the MPD.
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