The recent shakeups and breakups under U.S. Attorney Jim Letten amid an online comment controversy caught the eyes at The New Yorker, where Jack Hitt gives the blow-by-blow in "How Forensic Linguistics Identified Online Trolls in New Orleans." Just how exactly did investigators nail down NOLA.com commenters Henry L. Mencken1951 and eweman as Sal Perricone and Jan Mann?
Here's the (brief) saga of James Fitzgerald, "forensic linguistics" specialist and the FBI agent who helped link the Unabomber to Ted Kaczynski.
And a tip from Hitt: "Heloise-like tip to newbie trolls: don’t create an anonymous handle that includes the year of your own birth (Henry L. Mencken1951) or one that contains a homonym of your own name (eweman)."
Now Aaron Broussard, the former Jefferson Parish president who took a plea deal in a major bribery case a few months back, is asking for a hearing on alleged prosecutorial misconduct in former U.S. Attorney Jim Letten's office. The allegations, of course, relate to the non-blogging scandal, in which comments on nola.com — the highest form of public debate I am aware of — threaten to bring down several years of major public corruption cases.
Broussard also alleges that the office has failed to substantially investigate media leaks involving grand jury testimony and defamatory comments on nola.com. Broussard also objects to Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg Kennedy's role in his prosecution. As we know from Judge Kurt Engelhardt's famous order in the Danziger case, another former prosecutor Mike Magner testified in November that he had tried to alert superiors, including Kennedy, about the commenting in late 2010. Magner said that
Read Broussard's motion: BroussardMotion.pdf
As Clancy DuBos reported last week, veteran U.S. Attorneys Jan and Jim Mann have now left the U.S. Attorney's office. A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney's office confirmed the news this morning.
Both have been under scrutiny — Jan Mann under fire — in connection with the ongoing online commenting scandal that led to the retirement of U.S. Attorney Jim Letten. Jan Mann was Letten's first assistant until she was outed as an online commenter at Nola.com. Her husband, Jim Mann, is also a top supervisor in the U.S. Attorney's office.
The Manns' retirements are the latest developments in the online ranting saga that began last March when a lawsuit filed by River Birch co-owner Fred Heebe alleged that Sal Perricone, another veteran assistant U.S. Attorney, was posting acerbic comments at Nola.com under the nom-de-plume HenryLMencken1951 and other aliases. Perricone admitted the allegation and resigned.
Read the whole report here.
Today’s resignation of Jim Letten, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana, ended one of the most storied careers in the Louisiana justice system. Letten came to prominence as a federal prosecutor in two high-profile cases — the racketeering conviction of former Gov. Edwin W. Edwards and the tax fraud conviction of former state Rep. David Duke. Each case had the added bonus of prohibiting the defendant from seeking office again in Louisiana. For that alone, the public owes Jim Letten a debt of gratitude.
A Republican, Letten first assumed the U.S. Attorney’s job on an interim basis in 2001. He was officially appointed in 2005 by then-President George W. Bush and then reappointed in 2009 by President Barack Obama. His reappointment had the bipartisan backing of U.S. Sens. Mary Landrieu and David Vitter, who don’t agree on much. At the time of his resignation, Letten was the longest-serving U.S. attorney in the country.
The public liked him, too. Letten developed a reputation for putting justice above partisan concerns. His prosecutions cut across lines of race, class, geography, political party and power. Crooked politicians of both parties found themselves on Letten’s hook just as surely as did drug dealers, fraudulent contractors and tax cheats.
He successfully prosecuted dozens of high-profile cases, including the Jefferson family political dynasty, former Orleans Parish School Board president Ellenese Brooks-Simms, former Jefferson Parish Judges Alan Green and Ronald Bodenheimer, former St. Bernard Parish Judge Wayne Cresap, former St. John Parish President Bill Hubbard, former Mandeville Mayor Eddie Price, former Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard (and several associates), and former New Orleans City Council members Oliver Thomas, Jon Johnson and Renee Gill Pratt. Soon to come, it was clear as of last week, is former Mayor Ray Nagin.
The U.S. Department of Justice has just issued a release on the resignation of U.S. Attorney Jim Letten, along with Letten's statement:
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA — Today, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana Jim Letten announced his resignation after more than 11 years as United States Attorney, and 28 years with the Department of Justice. U.S. Attorney Letten leaves office as the longest serving U.S. Attorney today.
U.S. Attorney Letten issues the following statement:
"It has been both an honor and a privilege for me to serve the citizens of the Eastern District of Louisiana and the nation as United States Attorney. As of December 11, 2012, my resignation as U.S. Attorney will become effective and will conclude my nearly three decades serving with the Department of Justice.
The decision to resign my post as the United States Attorney was mine, and was made after careful and extensive consideration and discussion with my colleagues and superiors in the Department, and with my family. Although the decision was not an easy one, it is the best course of action under the circumstances for this office, its people, the Department, and for me, personally, as well.
I am enormously proud of our office's accomplishments over these years. And I am truly grateful to have had this incredible honor and rare opportunity to serve you, the people of New Orleans, and the entire Eastern District of Louisiana, a place I call home.
During my service as the United States Attorney, this office has been steadfast in its commitment to ensure national security, reduce violent crime, fight public corruption and to protect civil rights for all the people in the District. From the shadow of September 11, 2001, to the terrible devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, and to present, we have remained committed to protecting the citizens of this District, to be part of the solution to criminal justice problems and to pursue justice for the sake of seeing justice done.
New Orleans and this region — and state — are places of which our citizens can be truly proud. We must never give up the fight that we have carried to our streets, our neighborhoods, our schools, and our institutions, to ensure public safety and transparent, accountable, honest and efficient
Lastly, I want to offer my heartfelt thanks to all of the men and women with whom I have had the distinct honor and privilege of serving. I also want to thank my family for their love and support which has carried me through every day.”
Jim Letten today announced his resignation as the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana, effective on Tuesday, Dec. 11. The resignation will bring to a conclusion Letten's 11-year term in office, making him the longest-serving U.S. Attorney in the country. Letten will remain employed by the office for a "brief time," he said, to aid in the transition.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced in a press release that Dana Boente, First Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, will be appointed as interim U.S. Attorney in New Orleans.
"The decision was ultimately my own," Letten said. "It is, I believe, the best course of action under the circumstances."
(More after the jump)
U.S. District Court Judge Lance Africk today sentenced former New Orleans City Councilman Jon Johnson to six months in federal prison for conspiracy to commit theft of federal funds and submitting false documents to a federal department. Johnson pleaded guilty and resigned from his District E City Council seat in July.
Johnson faced a maximum five year penalty for routing nearly $80,000 in FEMA funds through two charities and into a campaign fund for his failed 2007 bid for the State Senate. Johnson was not a public servant at the time of his crimes. He also admitted to submitting false invoices to the Small Business Administration justifying a low interest loan for work done on his home to repair flood damage.
Pleading for leniency at today's hearing, Johnson asked Africk to take his family situation into account. Johnson, whose wife died in 2011, is the sole caretaker of his 8-year-old daughter.
"I stand before you this afternoon simply saying that I made a terrible mistake that I regret," he said. "I have an 8-year-old daughter that I've been caring for for the past year-and-a-half ... Please be lenient and please consider my personal circumstances with my daughter."
(More after the jump)
BP has agreed to plead guilty to 14 federal criminal counts related to the 2010 Gulf Oil Disaster — including 11 counts of felony manslaughter for the workers killed in the Deepwater Horizon explosion — U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced at a New Orleans press conference today.
"BP has agreed to plead guilty to all 14 criminal charges including responsibility for the deaths of 11 people and the events that led to an environmental catastrophe," Holder said. "The company has also agreed to pay $4 billion in fines and in penalties. This marks both the largest single criminal fine — more than $1.25 billion — and the largest total criminal resolution — $4 billion — in the history of the United States."
The U.S. Department of Justice has also indicted two former supervisors on the Deepwater Horizon — Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine — for manslaughter. Kaluza and Vidrine are scheduled to be arraigned on Nov. 28.
"After nearly three years and tens of millions of dollars in investigation, the Government needs a scapegoat. Bob was not an executive or high-level BP official. He was a dedicated rig worker who mourns his fallen co-workers every day.m No one should take any satisfaction in this indictment of an innocent man. This is not justice," reads an emailed statement from Kaluza's attorneys Shaun Clarke and David Gerger.
(More after the jump)
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jan Mann has been demoted from her post as First Assistant U.S. Attorney and Chief of the Criminal Division, according to a Thursday morning press release from U.S. Attorney Jim Letten.
The fairly brief and carefully worded release says Mann did in fact post comments on NOLA.com, presumably in stories related to Fred Heebe, who accused Mann of defamation in a suit last week.
Heebe alleged Mann used NOLA.com (as did former federal prosecutor Sal Perricone) to make comments about subjects under investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office. Mann's removal is the office's second high-profile departure following the online comment controversy — Perricone resigned in March.
Here's the release:
Immediately upon learning of the allegations contained in [Fred Heebe]’s lawsuit, I notified and maintained close contact with the appropriate U.S. Department of Justice officials in Washington, D.C. in order to determine the appropriate course of action. In accordance with well-established protocol, the Department of Justice Office of Professional Responsibility was notified.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Mann used NOLA.com to post comments. As of Monday night, November 5, 2012, AUSA Jan Maselli Mann is no longer serving in the supervisory positions of First Assistant United States Attorney or Chief of the Criminal Division.
Because this matter is now under review by the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., the release of any additional information by my office would not be appropriate.
The City of New Orleans has extended the deadline for companies to apply for a multimillion-dollar contract to track the progress of the proposed New Orleans Police Department consent decree. The city and the U.S. Department of Justice originally released a request for proposals (RFP) on Sept. 6, setting an Oct. 5 deadline. However, according to court filings, it seems they were unhappy with the responses.
Seven companies applied for the contract — for which Mayor Mitch Landrieu has set aside $2 million in his proposed 2013 budget and is expected to be worth as much as $10 million over the life of the consent decree — the Lens reported. 55 pre-identified likely respondents received a copy of the RFP, but only four of them actually responded.
According to a joint motion for extension filed by the city and the feds filed last week in U.S. District Court, other groups who wished to apply were not aware of the RFP.
Despite widely distributing the RFP and articulating the deadline for proposals, the Parties have learned that some interested entities were unaware that the RFP had been issued. The Parties are concerned that there may be additional entities that may have applied but were unaware that the RFP had been issued. This concern is bolstered by the fact the Parties received only seven applications for Monitor, substantially fewer than have applied to other monitoring requests for proposals, including quite recent ones.
Judge Susie Morgan granted the motion over the weekend, and the new deadline is Nov. 16.
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