A defense attorney in a long-running fraud probe in New Orleans wants to oust one of the federal prosecutors from the case amid an online commenting scandal that has prompted questions about U.S. Attorney Jim Letten’s future.
Dominick Fazzio is facing embezzlement charges in the federal probe of the River Birch landfill, which has spawned several cases against various employees. His attorney, Buddy Lemann, has now asked the judge to remove Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg Kennedy from the case because, he says, new information suggests the prosecutor knew about unethical activity occurring as far back as 2010, according to a report by the New Orleans Fox affiliate.
The unethical activity refers to the scores of online comments posted anonymously by former prosecutor Sal Perricone, who took aim at defendants in his cases, defense attorneys, judges and even his own boss, Letten. Perricone resigned after he was revealed as the author of the comments and is currently under investigation by the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility. Then, earlier this month, Letten’s No. 2, Jan Mann, was also outed as a frequent commenter on NOLA.com, the New Orleans Times-Picayune’s website. Letten demoted her earlier this month.
The new request from Lemann comes after U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt released a court order earlier this week that requires the U.S. Attorney’s office to reopen a leaks investigation related to the Danziger Bridge case, which created a media firestorm following Hurricane Katrina. Several New Orleans police officers were convicted of killing innocent civilians along Danziger Bridge in the aftermath of the hurricane, and subsequently worked to cover it up. Information about pleas was leaked to the press, and Englehardt’s new motion calls on the federal prosecutor’s office to reopen the investigation of the leaks as Mann’s involvement may have tainted it.
Lehmann contends that Engelhardt’s order suggests that Kennedy knew about Perricone’s online comments and did not take any action to notify his superiors.
“All of this wreaks of garbage, and it’s not coming from the River Birch dump, it’s coming out of the U.S. Attorney’s office,”Lemann said, according to Fox.