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How Will Jordan Handle the Cathouse Crowd? 

A new era begins at Criminal District Court this week as Eddie Jordan Jr. takes office as New Orleans' district attorney. The dapper former U.S. attorney has telegraphed few punches in terms of changes he expects to make, but rest assured he will bring major change to the office.

He offers few specifics up front, but generally says he will "overhaul" the office. Jordan promises to focus primarily on improving the conviction rate, assuring witnesses of their safety, improving pay for assistant DAs, working more closely with NOPD and federal prosecutors, and shortening the time it takes the office to accept or decline charges against persons arrested.

Jordan's history shows that he doesn't shy away from the spotlight, but he likes to keep his cards close to his vest. That's how he conducted himself during his office's prosecution of former Gov. Edwin Edwards. He stuck very close to his script and offered few details, but his team delivered big in the end.

That portends major changes in the DA's office. Jordan says that's what voters elected him to do.

On matters of political style, Jordan will bring quite a change to Tulane and Broad. Whereas retiring DA Harry Connick frequently used the media to grandstand or to rail against judges and cops, Jordan is understated. Rather than criticize, he often praises others in the criminal justice system. On substantive matters, he drops few hints as to where he's going with an investigation.

Last week, at a news conference announcing Gaynell Williams' appointment as his first assistant, Jordan was true to form. He listed all the things cited above as areas in need of improvement, but offered no details as to how he would do it.

On another front, he promised that his office would take a fresh look at the Canal Street brothel case -- in particular, whether to bring state charges against the well-heeled male patrons of the infamous sporting house. Those patrons, who no doubt are quaking in their boots every time someone writes about the subject, skated in the federal case against the madam and her working girls.

The feds claimed that all but two of the johns violated no federal laws, so they passed the evidence on to Connick for possible state charges. (This may come as a shock to some, but in Louisiana it is against the law to pay someone for sex -- or even to offer to pay for sex.)

But Connick demurred as well, saying federal charges could be brought under the theory that the patrons were "principals" to the federal crimes. In theory, that may be true, but prosecutors use that one even more rarely than they use the "misprision" argument (i.e., failing to prevent a crime when, allegedly, you could have). Meanwhile, Connick offered no explanation as to why he would not bring state charges, and the Boys Club dodged another bullet. Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge.

Maybe.

Now Jordan says he will take another look at the files. But he adds that murder and other violent crimes are the top priority of his office. "I do not think that cases of that kind are the most important cases confronting the DA's office," Jordan said. "Murder should be our emphasis. The citizens of New Orleans want to feel safe."

Ah, no doubt the cathouse crowd feels safer already. But before they light up cigars and pass around the cognac, they'd better wait and see. Trying to predict what a guy like Jordan will do is risky business. Ask Edwin Edwards.

Besides, the gal who will be his first assistant is a former federal prosecutor who knows the brothel case quite well. Who knows, she might also harbor some of those new-fangled feminist notions about equal justice for men and women.

It will be very interesting to see how Jordan handles this and other matters once he assumes office this week. The only thing that's certain is that big changes are in the offing.

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