Two more defendants are calling for federal prosecutors to recuse themselves from their cases as the New Orleans U.S. Attorney’s Office continues to battle the fallout from a rogue prosecutor who posted scores of inappropriate comments online.
Tom Wilkinson has joined his co-defendant Aaron Broussard in calling for the federal prosecutors bringing 38 counts of payroll fraud against them to recuse themselves, according to a report in the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
Both argued that Louisiana U.S. Attorney Jim Letten and his office interviewed them as part of an inquiry into the Birch River landfill, the case Letten had to pass on to the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section because of conflict of interest issues. It all stems from Assistant U.S. Attorney Sal Perricone, who resigned in March after it was revealed that he was a prolific commentor on Nola.com, criticizing many in the law enforcement field, including his boss. He also made statements — through his online persona “Henry L. Mencken 1951″ — about the River Birch landfill case, forcing Letten to pull his office out of the prosecution.
“There is substantial overlap between individuals involved in River Birch and those involved in the Jefferson Parish case,” Wilkinson attorney Ralph Whalen wrote. “In fact, in addition to Mr. Wilkinson, his co-defendant Aaron Broussard, the former parish president, and the government’s cooperating witness, Tim Whitmer, the former parish chief administrative officer, are each connected in some manner to River Birch.”
While Broussard was president of the Jefferson Parish, Whitmer and Wilkinson helped negotiate a $160 million deal to dispose of residential garbage at River Birch and a landfill in Jefferson Parish, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Whitmer’s private insurance brokerage Lagniappe Industries, handled policies for River Birch employees.
After Perricone was taken off the case, Letten recused his office from three River Birch prosecutions: the landfill’s chief financial officer Dominick Fazzio, Fazzio’s brother-in-law Mike Titus, and former State and Wildlife Commissioner Henry Mouton.
Broussard and Wilkinson face charges in alleged payroll scheme for the benefit of Broussard’s ex-wife, Karen Parker. Wilkinson hired Parker as a paralegal adviser, allegedly at Broussard’s request, after Broussard was elected parish president in 2003 but before he took office in 2004. Broussard and Parker married in 2004 and divorced in 2009.