Probe of ex-prosecutors' online posts complete

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - The U.S. attorney's office in New Orleans says the Justice Department has completed an investigation and discipline process involving two former assistant U.S. attorneys who acknowledged making anonymous online posts about federal cases.

Court records show a lawyer in U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite's office, Fred Harper, informed a federal magistrate by hand-delivered letter Thursday that the investigation by the department's Office of Professional Responsibility was complete.

A spokeswoman for Polite said the report is not yet publicly available.

The two former prosecutors, Sal Perricone and Jan Mann, acknowledged in 2012 that they had posted anonymous comments about federal cases at a newspaper's website.

Both resigned, as did their boss, former U.S. Attorney Jim Letten, who was not implicated in the online posts.

Repercussions from the resulting scandal continue. In September, a federal judge ordered a new trial for five former New Orleans police officers convicted of civil rights violations stemming from deadly shootings on a bridge after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt said that the case had been tainted by "grotesque prosecutorial misconduct." He also said at least three government attorneys had posted anonymous comments on the newspaper's website, creating a "carnival atmosphere" that perverted justice in the case.

Defense lawyers in other cases have cited the posts. Harper's letter to Magistrate Joseph J. Wilkinson arose from the federal case against Stacey Jackson, the former executive director of a nonprofit agency, New Orleans Affordable Housing.

She is charged with taking kickbacks from contractors for the agency, which was supposed to provide federally financed house-gutting services after Hurricane Katrina. As part of her defense, she is seeking information on whether federal prosecutors were among those making anonymous comments about her on Times Picayune.

Jackson's lawyers had sought material from the Justice Department investigation. The court denied their motion as being premature because the investigation and disciplinary process had not been concluded. Harper's letter to Wilkinson said the process is complete and that district Chief Judge Sarah Vance was being informed as well.

Part of Jackson's defense also involved a subpoena of material from Times-Picayune in an attempt to determine whether two online commenters - identified as "Aircheck" and "Jammer1954" - were government officials involved in her case. The news agency fought the subpoena but lost an appeal and turned over the material.

Wilkinson and U.S. District Judge Mary Ann Vial Lemmon issued an order Thursday stating that their private review of the material indicated that Jammer 1954 was not a government official involved in the case. The review of the materials regarding "Aircheck" was continuing.

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