Perricone: "I did nothing wrong" in anonymous commenting
A former federal prosecutor tells a local community activist he's had enough of her comments.
You may know Levees.org founder Sandy Rosenthal from her post-Katrina watchdogging of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. But she's also been vocal about powerful people who post anonymously on the Internet, one being that former assistant U.S. attorney.
Rosenthal got an email from someone she never met. "Out of the blue," she recalls.
Call it an unfiltered look at the mindset of former federal prosecutor Sal Perricone.
Rosenthal says, "It was pretty clear to me it was genuine."
Genuine but, Rosenthal says, also hurtful. She says, "Anyone can look at that letter and see for themselves that he has attacked my intelligence, character and my activities here in the city."
Apparently Rosenthal mentioned Perricone in the comment section of NOLA.com, and it lead to this email from the former assistant U.S. attorney.
Rosenthal says, "I had never discussed Sal Perricone the person… What I have said many times, again many times on NOLA.com, I have denounced the behavior, the activity of disguising your identity, pretending you're not involved and then viciously attacking people."
Perricone resigned last year after businessman Fred Heebe uncovered evidence Perricone was posting anonymously on NOLA.com, sometimes mentioning people his office was investigating.
But in the letter to Rosenthal, Perricone defends himself. He writes, "I did nothing wrong. Yes I commented on a myriad of things, including the corrupt state of affairs of this metropolitan region. I spent 40 years in law enforcement and never have I violated anyone rights or the law -- sorry to disappoint you."
Perricone goes on to write, "Lamentably, nothing will change because the people here have an insatiable appetite for corruption and scream when it is disclosed."
Rosenthal and Levees.org have been monitoring and speaking out against people of power who they believe anonymously post on the Internet.
Rosenthal says, "My group, me and other members of our organization, publicly denouncing a particular type of behavior. And that is people in a position of public trust disguising identity -- pretending just to be some average guy on the sideline, an impartial observer -- and then using comment sections of major media to viciously attack a person or group. It frightens people, it's scary, it frightens people who might have stood up for the public good."
A few years ago, Rosenthal tracked comments from employees at the Corps. She says, "We were able to discover the Army Corps of Engineers had been using in their computers and logging onto my blog and NOLA.com to viciously attack me and anyone who supported our group."
Since then, Rosenthal has been quick to publicly denounce anyone else who posts anonymously.
But in his email, Perricone continued to defend himself, writing, "There is so much about this situation that you and others are unaware of and will remain so. Why? It is frankly beyond your ken and desire to know the truth… The right to comment anonymously and the right to allow people to comment anonymously are consubstantial constitution rights, which are enshrined in our basic law."
Perricone told Rosenthal her "incessant fascination with my constitutional activities on NOLA.com have gone febrile, if not obsessive."
Rosenthal says, "This is not a flattering letter, not a nice letter."
Perricone closes his email by writing, "But, I feel there is no hope for a place where mediocrity is the standard and tolerating corruption is burrowed deep in the collective DNA of the citizenry. Factor that with a corrupt daily record, and you have the roux for a festering gumbo. This city has lost -- I haven't. I am out of the fight, but I know I did my part and did it well, uniformed and distorted comments, notwithstanding."
Perricone declined to comment on this story.
We did find at least five times where Sandy Rosenthal made mention of Perricone by name on NOLA.com; all had to do with his posts on the website.
Here is the full email from Perricone to Rosenthal:
To: Sandy Rosenthal
Dear Ms Rosenthal,
It might be my distorted imagination, but you incessant fascination with my Constitutional activities on nola.com have gone febrile, if not obsessive. I don't know what anyone has done to you in the past, but it was not me. I don't know what your experiences have been in the past, but I was not part of them. I don't know what your desires are in the future, but rest assured, I do not want to be part of them. And I don't know what your sense of justice is, for your muted, but rabid comments--though not anonymous--suggest a precatory outcome of my manufactured situation consistent with someone who has committed a crime. What America did you grow up in?
First let me say this: I did nothing wrong. Yes I commented on a myriad of things, including the corrupt state of affairs of this metropolitan region. I spent 40 years in law enforcement and NEVER have I violated anyone rights or the law--sorry to disappoint you. My comments, unlike the ones you have referenced in the past, did nothing more that elucidate the corrupt practices that are extant and continue to be extant in this region. Lamentably, nothing will change because the people here have an insatiable appetite for corruption and scream when it is disclosed. Claude Rains would chuckle.
Second, consider this in your MBA mind: what if a citizen decided to seek injunctive relief, that is to seek an injunction against the august TP and its sandbox playmate, nola.com, enjoining them from allowing anonymous trailing comments on-line. What do you think their response would be? Times up. You can bet that the effort would be shot down in flames because of the application of the First Amendment--something you should become acquainted with before you attack me or anyone else. But,alas, you aren't alone. Nearly everyone in the media is unaware of the First Amendment, its origins or the jurisprudence emanating therefrom, until they feel threatened to disclose a source. Then they waive the flag. My point, if you haven't embraced it by now, is that people who comment anonymously have the same protection as those who don't--like you. Now that is where another nettlesome amendment makes its debut--the Fourteenth. (Equal Protection) The right to comment anonymously and the right to allow people to comment anonymously are Consubstantial Constitution rights, which are enshrined in our basic law. As I told one reporter, we are a country of laws, not of men and certainly not of sentiment.
Third, it is beyond obvious that you have great animus for anyone who comments on nola.com.( I have surceased from doing so, for it only helps them, the TP, to quantify their readership for assessing advertising cost. I don't feel I want to be part of their business model.) There is so much about this situation that you and others are unaware of and will remain so. Why? It is frankly beyond your ken and desire to know the truth. You have manifested your convictions. Without question, you have found asylum and solace in commenting on nola.com, a venue which is sponsored by inscrutable motives and agendas. Only a fool, and I was one, would continue to comment there either anonymously or not. But fool or not, they have that unassailable right to do so. I think New Orleans is part of America, but I could be wrong.
Fourth, NO case has been compromised my any comment I authored. And, this might come as a shock to you, there are comments attributed to me that I did not author. Now ask yourself this question: how could that have happened? Now you want to grind your coruscating ax, go there. Remember the International House incident? Study that. That should scare you. If it doesn't, it demonstrates how insentient you are about the affairs of this region. When defenses attorneys attempted to advance arguments that my comments deprive their clients of their right to a fair trial, the judges disposed of those arguments quickly. But you won't read that in the TP. Why? Therein, lies fodder for an objective mind to explore, but you won't find one in New Orleans. You seem like a person who desires integrity and not just in levees, But you ignore the decease and cavil about remedies and efforts to change this atavistic outpost of third-world proportions to a city which is competitive and not just ready for the next festival.
I could go on, but you have probably glazed over by now, and it would be a feeble effort on my part to educate you any further. But know this: I gave my all to make New Orleans a better place to live and work. I did so legally and Constitutionally. Like you, I have been attack from all quarters, but I have learned to live with it. Unlike you, I was born and raised in New Orleans and want to see it grow and be a better place to live. But, I feel there is no hope for a place where mediocrity is the standard and tolerating corruption is burrowed deep in the collective DNA of the citizenry. Factor that with a corrupt daily record, and you have the roux for a festering gumbo. This city has lost--I haven't. I am out the fight, but I know I did my part and did it well, uninformed and distorted comments, notwithstanding.