The Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section has dispatched an additional lawyer to New Orleans to prosecute a series of cases that have forced the local U.S. Attorney recuse much of his office.
The addition puts the prosecution team at five lawyers, four of whom were flown in by Main Justice. The cases stem from a large-scale federal probe of New Orleans-based landfill River Birch and its close ties to local politicians. Prosecutors have netted two guilty pleas thus far.
But the probe hit a major snag in March when a New Orleans Assistant U.S. Attorney was revealed as a prolific online commenter who frequently sounded off on case. The lawyer, Sal Perricone, was working on the probe at the time, and a landfill co-owner filed a defamation suit against the longtime AUSA. Perricone has since resigned from his position as a federal prosecutor and the incident has been referred to the Office of Professional Responsibility.
U.S. Attorney Jim Letten recused his office from the probe in April and lawyers for headquarters took up the cases.
The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported Wednesday that Menaka Kalaskar, a trial attorney in the department’s Public Integrity Section, is the latest to join the prosecution. The 30-year-old was recently on assignment with the U.S. Attorney’s office for the District of Columbia, the paper reported. She is a 2009 graduate of Stanford University Law School.
Already working on the cases from Main Justice are Peter Koski, Deputy Chief of the Public Integrity Section; Brian Lichter, a trial lawyer in the section; and Aixa Maldonado-Quinones, a lawyer in the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section of the Criminal Divison. Greg Kennedy, Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of Louisiana, is also on the prosecution team. Maldonado-Quinones joined in August, the Times-Picayune reported.
Koski was involved in the prosecution of lobbyist Kevin Ring, who was found guilty for his role in the Jack Abramoff public corruption scandal. Koski graduated from Stanford University Law School in 2005.