U.S. Attorney Letten says shakeup, investigations under way - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

U.S. Attorney Letten says shakeup, investigations under way

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New Orleans, La. -

Embattled U.S. Attorney Jim Letten gave his strongest comments yet Thursday on the web posting scandal that's rocked his office, and the changes that he's made to try and get things back on an even keel.

Letten got a standing ovation at the luncheon of the New Orleans Police and Justice Foundation. The longest-serving U.S. Attorney in the country isn't showing any signs of letting up.

For Letten's future, the challenges are enormous. Most new presidents pick new U.S. Attorneys, anyway.  But the recent web posting revelations have cost Letten two of his top assistants, and some say he may be more vulnerable than ever.

Letten told FOX 8, "Our people are working through and not allowing this challenge to slow down what they're doing."

Letten made a strong defense of his administration before a friendly crowd of some 400 police officers, judges, and members of the foundation.  He rattled off a laundry list of recent convictions, including former Plaquemines Parish Sheriff Jiff Hingle, former Jefferson Parish president Aaron Broussard, and dozens of other convictions.

NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas said, "His special commitment to helping reform the New Orleans Police Department was important when I made a decision to come back to the police department three years ago.'

After losing top prosecutor Sal Perricone and replacing First Assistant U.S. Attorney Jan Mann, who now has another role in with the U.S. Attorney's office, Letten says his office has gone through an unprecedented shakeup.

Veteran prosecutor Fred Harper, who helped convict former Governor Edwin Edwards, is now First Assistant U.S. Attorney.  Letten has also appointed a new executive first assistant, two new deputy chiefs, and new unit chiefs, all necessitated by the replacement of Mann.

"We have investigations underway and we are complying with the court's orders, and doing everything to make sure we are ethical and fair," said Letten.

The online commenting scandal has already threatened two of the office's major cases. Danziger Bridge shooting defendants are now asking for a new trial, based on web comments and their possible impact on jury verdicts. Also, the River Birch case has already been handed up to the U.S. Justice Department.

Letten promises to give 150 percent until the end of his tenure, whenever that might come.

Orleans District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro has known Jim Letten for decades. He says Letten has been instrumental in many recent cases being developed in Orleans Parish to crack down on gang violence. And he says he hopes that relationship continues.

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