Ex-federal prosecutors surrender law licenses
5th May 2014 · 0 Comments
In a news story last week, WDSU News reported that over the past six weeks two of former U.S. Attorney Jim Letten’s top prosecutors — Sal Perricone and Jan Mann — recently relinquished their federal law licenses. Both former prosecutors relinquished those licenses since late March, with Jan Mann doing so March 25 and Sal Perricone doing so April 3.
Both prosecutors resigned after an online posting scandal that led to a federal judge overturning the convictions of several NOPD officers convicted in the Danziger Bridge shootings and ultimately cost Jim Letten his job as the nation’s longest-serving U.S. attorney.
A federal official confirmed late Wednesday that the Court “allowed Jan Mann to permanently resign from the practice of law before the Judges of the Eastern District of Louisiana” on March 25.
Just over a week later, on April 3, Perricone took similar steps to close that controversial chapter in the history of the U.S. Eastern District of Louisiana.
No reason was given for the voluntary resignations.
The surrendering of their law licenses means that the two will never again practice law in the U.S. District Court where they once served as two of Letten’s top prosecutors. Mann served as Letten’s second-in-command while Perricone was chief litigation counsel for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Attorneys must be admitted by each separate federal district court in order to practice there, and admission is independent of any license granted by the state. An attorney may, for example, hold a Louisiana bar license without having permission to appear in the federal court that is based in downtown New Orleans.
WDSU News reported that as of late April, Perricone and Mann remained in good standing with the Louisiana State Bar.
Perricone and Mann resigned from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in 2012 after it was discovered that each had been posting online comments about several active cases under federal investigation. The remarks were made on the NOLA.com website under assumed names.
Mann denied posting any comments on the Danziger case during the trial.
Characterizing their online posting activities on nola.com as “gross prosecutorial misconduct,” U.S. District Judge Kurt Englehardt lambasted the two federal prosecutors for their involvement in the online posting scandal.
“The publication by DOJ employees of inflammatory invectives, accusatory screeds, and vitriolic condemnations, both directly and by the express encouragement of others to do the same, should confound and alarm any reasonable observer of the criminal justice process,” Englehardt wrote.
U.S. Attorney Jim Letten later stepped down from his post as top federal prosecutor and a U.S. Justice Department investigation has sought to determine the extent of problems within the office. WDSU News reported that probe concluded in late April, but no details from the investigation have been made public.
WDSU News confirmed that Letten, who now teaches at Tulane University, continues to be licensed to appear before the Eastern District judges.
A number of local community activists and civil rights leaders have asked whether the prosecutors’ involvement in the online posting scandal may have been purposely done to undermine the convictions of the five cops convicted in the Danziger Bridge shootings, which involved the killing of two unarmed civilians and the wounding of four others on the eastern New Orleans bridge less than a week after Hurricane Katrina flooded the city in 2005.
The Landrieu administration has argued in a number of federal briefs seeking to toss out the federally mandated NOPD consent decree that negotiations between the U.S. Department of Justice and the City of New Orleans were tainted by the involvement of Perricone and Mann.
The federal court has repeatedly rebuffed the City of New Orleans efforts to do away with the NOPD consent decree in spite of the online posting scandal and the two prosecutors involvement in it.
This article originally published in the May 5, 2014 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.