Skip to main content

We may not have to wait long to see if there's any fallout from the reversal of the convictions in the Danziger Bridge shooting case due largely to anonymous online posts by federal prosecutors before and during the trial.  Former New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin is due to face trial on 21 federal counts of taking kickbacks from three city contractors and strongarming Home Depot to give a company he partly owns a granite installation contract.  But on Thursday, only 48 hours after the Danziger Bridge convictions were deep-sixed, Nagin sought to have the trial postponed indefinitely due to comments posted about him while the investigation was underway.

The same misconduct cited in the Danziger Bridge case -- federal prosecutors making anonymous comments on NOLA.com about ongoing criminal matters -- are a concern for Nagin, his attorney Robert Jenkins said in the filing.

Former U.S. Attorney Jim Letten and his senior staff, who were blasted for misconduct in the Danziger case, were at the helm of the office during the investigation of Nagin, the filing notes. And many of the findings regarding misconduct in the case against the police officers convicted in that case "will bear directly upon the Department of Justice personnel with regard to Mr. Nagin."

Jenkins further argues that until a report drafted by Atlanta-based federal prosecutor John Horn is fully made public, there's no real way to determine how much those posts could impact Nagin's chances of getting a fair trial.

The common link in both cases is Sal Perricone, the former top trial lawyer for the Eastern District of Louisiana.  He was exposed in March 2012 as the man behind several handles on NOLA.com that were posting unusually detailed comments about federal cases.  For those who missed it, an investigation revealed that Perricone had been making posts attacking the New Orleans Police Department and the five former cops on trial for the shootings as early as 2008, and had been posting commentary on trial testimony while the trial was underway.  If I'm reading the order for a new trial right, Perricone's actions amounted to an attempt to "poison the well" before the trial and influence the jurors thinking while the trial was underway (the jurors weren't sequestered).  In other words, high-tech jury tampering--a situation that you simply cannot tolerate in a criminal trial.

However, at least one comment now proven to have been made by Perricone may have gone much farther than simply poisoning the well.

For all of you who have a penchant for firearms and how they work, Ray Nagin lives on Park Island.
I really hope I'm misreading that comment.  I really am.  If I'm not, then Perricone may have to worry about more serious charges other than obstruction of justice.

On Friday morning, the government moved to foreclose any efforts by Nagin to claim that the investigation of him was tainted by prosecutorial misconduct.  I have to admit to being puzzled by this move.  After all, if a judge was willing to torpedo a conviction in a case where the evidence was as overwhelming as the Danziger Bridge case, it says a lot.  Seems to me that the government is merely delaying the inevitable case where another manifestly guilty person ends up getting a new trial because of these shenanigans.  To my mind, if it's as serious as it sounds, the only remedy might be moving the trial outside of Louisiana.  Given that Perricone was posting about federal trials for at least four years, it may be very hard to empanel a jury anywhere in the state.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  This is such a major ethics violation (5+ / 0-)

    that this man needs to be disbarred.

    UNREAL !

    I must be dreaming...

    by murphy on Sat Sep 21, 2013 at 04:05:46 PM PDT

  •  What a mess. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    P Carey

    "Truth catches up with you in here. It's the truth that's gonna make you hurt." - Piper Chapman

    by blueoregon on Sat Sep 21, 2013 at 04:17:02 PM PDT

  •  Is he Louisiana's Annie Dookhan? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kurt, P Carey

    Annie Dookhan was the Massachusetts state chemist who was among those responsible for testing alleged drug samples.  Her reports were used in thousands of trials.  She turned out about five times as many test results as her co-workers, and was allowed to do this for years, even though a cursory review would have shown that her "productivity" was impossible.  She just liked to help prosecutors, and may have had an improper personal relationship with one.

    So thousands of convictions have been overturned, and prisoners released. Special courts were set up to handle the overturning of tainted convictions. Some of those freed may well have been innocent, since her tests were mostly faked, but some were no doubt guilty, some of violent crimes related to dealing, not just using.  (Massachusetts has too many people in jail, but it's not nearly as bad as some other states.) But it's too late to retry most of them.  It's a major mess for the state.  And she's facing serious criminal charges.

    While Perricone's poisoning of the well wasn't quite as blatant, it looks like Louisiana may be in for some interesting times.

  •  Why would anyone (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    P Carey

    Go into the cesspool that is NOLA.com comment threads?

  •  prosecutorial misconduct (0+ / 0-)

    Thanx for the post and the link to the court's opinion.  Of particular note, according to the opinion, is that the government had the 1st assistant investigate the matter and guess what ? she found no misconduct.  Then it was discovered that she had also posted on nola.com, under an alias, about confidential matters.  What is also remarkable is that this crew had the temerity to call themselves "The Untouchables"  How ironic.

  •  Motions in limine (0+ / 0-)

    such as the one filed by the feds are not at all uncommon--both sides try to get the other prohibited from following a particulary line of inquiry.

    In my view, the defense has won that round: by forcing the feds to file a motion attempting to prohibit mentions of prosecutorial misconduct underlines and highlights that very notion in the minds of potential jurors.

    I agree with you that the whole episode is one holy mess! But I can't see moving the trial out of state or even out of the district. The federal jury pool for the EDLA is quite diverse and Orleans Parish is only one of several in that pool. All the feds have to demonstrate to the judge is that a potential juror, even if he or she has been exposed to the comments on NOLA.com, can put that knowledge aside and be a fair and impartial member of the jury--not a particularly high bar to meet, unfortunately.

    Thanks for the diary; we here in Louisiana sometimes feel that what happens here is somehow sui generis when, in fact, the corruption in USA offices is not something we have a monopoly on.

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site