Chris Rose: Nolagate

U.S. Attorney Jim Letten (File/AP Photo)
U.S. Attorney Jim Letten (File/AP Photo)

In the years since Katrina, the U.S. Attorney's Office has notched one conviction after another against the predators and the privileged who used the storm's ravages as a means to enrich themselves and their families.

The Danziger 7, the Jefferson dynasty, the House of Broussard, the petty cons and grifters of New Orleans City Hall: Upon them U.S. Attorney Jim Letten loosed the fateful lightening of his terrible swift sword of justice.

His contributions to federal prison overcrowding have been a blessing, the saving grace to our region's sordid history of corruption and graft.

But all those notches on Letten's belt may amount to little more than stressed leather once his former targets and enemies are done conducting their own investigations.

Turns out, Letten's most trusted first assistant and his chief prosecutor have been self-aggrandizing, self-sabotaging sneaks and imposters, engaged in base, bizarre and dangerous Internet gamesmanship.

With the vigor of pride-swelled teenagers loosed upon the social networks, they flamed web chat rooms with astoundingly unprofessional, amazingly infantile, scurrilous and cowardly comments and innuendo against the accused that stood before them in courtrooms.

All of it done in presumed anonymity.

All of it now exposed.

One by one, the crooks, cons and even killers exposed by Letten's office are stepping up to demand retrials, tossed convictions and rescinded plea bargains due to inflammatory and prejudicial comments made by prosecutors Jan Mann and Sal Perricone, the highest ranking and most empowered brokers of justice in our region.

Their names may go down in greater infamy than any of the malefactors they imprisoned.

And their careless disregard for professionalism and perhaps the law has put all of Letten's triumphs at risk.

U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt already had misgivings about prosecutorial acts during the Danziger trial.

I would take his succinct analysis of the case one step further; it appears that portions of the trials amounted to liars using other liars' lies to convict liars.

And that's about as much sense as anything in this case makes now.

Justice may be blind.

But hindsight is 20-20.

And the resulting carnage in the U.S. Attorney's Office, the damage to distinguished careers, the possibility that evil men will be set free and the destruction of public trust is playing out in formidable, frightening and all-too-realistic 3-D.