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Federal prosecutor in New Orleans resigns amid investigation

December 06, 2012|By Michael Muskal
  • Federal prosecutor Jim Letten announces his resignation during a news conference in New Orleans. At far left is his wife, JoAnn.
Federal prosecutor Jim Letten announces his resignation during a news… (Gerald Herbert / Associated…)

Jim Letten, who became the face of probity and incorruptibility in New Orleans, resigned as the federal prosecuting attorney amid a scandal involving top deputies who used the Internet to post anonymous criticisms of judges and cases.

Letten announced his resignation at a news conference on Thursday. He gave no reason for leaving the job but insisted he was not forced out.

"The decision ultimately was mine," he said.

"Make no mistake: I stand here before you ... with enormous, unabashed pride in everything we've accomplished and in the tremendous successes we've forged over the years," Letten said.

Letten is the nation’s longest-serving U.S. attorney, appointed in 2001. He survived both GOP and Democratic administrations and earned a reputation for fighting corruption, bad cops and scammers in the freewheeling months after Hurricane Katrina.

Dana Boente, a first assistant U.S. attorney in Virginia, was appointed to hold the office until a permanent replacement is named, the Justice Department announced.

Recently, Letten had been under pressure after two senior prosecutors admitted they had anonymously posted criticism of judges and comments about cases on the Times-Picayune's website.

One of those prosecutors, Sal Perricone, resigned in March.  He had described a federal judge in New Orleans as someone who “loves killers,” and charged that “Obama and his West Wing band of Bolsheviks have a master design to strangle America's economy.”

Last month, Letten demoted his top assistant, Jan Mann, after she confessed to posting anonymous comments on the same site.

The Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility is investigating the postings, which defense attorneys have argued were a case of prosecutors improperly trying to influence cases.

On Thursday, Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. announced the appointment of John Horn, a first assistant U.S. attorney in Georgia, to investigate the online posts and leaks.

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