The Detroit Free Press drops an excellent report on the case of Dr. Labeed Nouri, a Sterling Heights physician and Iraqi immigrant who spent more than three years in prison after he was convicted of sexually assaulting a young woman who had worked in his office. The case had its problems from the get-go: The young woman was the daughter of one of Nouri’s patients who made the accusations after only six days of work. While the woman gave precise details as to the timing of the alleged attack, the defense was able to produce records that showed Nouri was on the phone in his office at the exact time of the alleged assault.
Defense attorneys argued that the woman made up the story to explain why she was no longer a virgin, as virginity is highly valued in her religious community. The jury didn’t buy it. They convicted Nouri in July 2008. When defense attorneys asked the jurors how they reconciled the timeline discrepancies, they said they couldn’t. They just chose to go with their gut.
The case unraveled after the young woman’s boyfriend, who testified at the trial, was overcome with guilt after seeing Dr. Nouri’s wife and kids. He secretly recorded a conversation with the woman, who admitted that she had lied on the stand. Nouri’s attorney then took the recording to prosecutors. Whereupon this happened:
Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper, who dropped felony charges against Nouri and sought his release from prison when she learned of the perjury, said she is awaiting police reports before deciding whether to file any charges against the woman.
"We moved heaven and earth to get him out immediately when we learned of this," Cooper said.
Now, you might remember Ms. Cooper. She is the same woman who charged a man with a felony for logging into his wife’s email account. I had some unkind words for her at that time. Which I immediately thought about when I saw the above paragraph, because this is, sadly, uncommon behavior for a prosecutor. Even with overwhelming evidence of innocence, prosecutors are often reluctant to reexamine cases they have “won.” So I was happy to hear that Cooper acted immediately to get this guy out of prison.
Until I read this:
Prosecutors, noting Nouri had been convicted, offered a deal: If he pleaded no contest to a low-level misdemeanor assault -- with no probation-reporting requirements and no restrictions on obtaining his medical license -- he could be free within hours and get it expunged after five years.
It took Nouri, who was sitting in a prison cell at the Kinross Correctional Facility in the Upper Peninsula, two days to agree.
"I'm thinking, 'No, I didn't do anything,' " he recalled in a recent interview, as his wife wiped away tears. "But then I think, 'I take this and I can see my kids in a day or two.' I hadn't seen them in three years. I took it."
Dr. Nouri was convicted based on the testimony of a victim who later admitted she had lied. He was sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison after the Judge read a letter purportedly signed by the victim’s priest; the priest later stated that he had never written a letter. During the over 700 days he spent in prison, Nouri was repeatedly assaulted by other prisoners. His nose was broken, his teeth were cracked, and he received stitches to his face. This was after Nouri fled Iraq in 2003.
And after all that, the prosecutor makes him plead guilty to something he never did so the guy can see his wife and kids.
There are no words.