An embattled Jim Letten defended his office on Thursday, saying an online commenting scandal that has toppled two of his long-serving prosecutors is not a distraction.
“Your United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana is strong. We are focused. We are fully engaged and moving forward, only forward without missing a step,” said Letten, the U.S. Attorney in New Orleans, ccording to a report by WWL-TV in Lousiana.
The scandal has put a spotlight on the U.S. Attorney’s office, with a federal judge offering some harsh words this week and continued questions about Letten’s future in the office. Former prosecutor Sal Perricone admitted earlier this year to being the person behind a prolific online author who posted hundreds of comments about defendants in federal cases, lawyers, judges and even his own boss, Letten. Last month, Letten’s No. 2, Jan Mann, also admitted to similar allegations and has been demoted. Perricone resigned in March.
Letten, who has been tight-lipped since the allegations against Mann surfaced, offered a strong defense of his office and its work on Thursday at a law enforcement luncheon in New Orleans.
“Know this, neither I, nor this U.S. Attorney’s Office will be distracted or deterred from fairly, aggressively, relentlessly investigating, pursuing and prosecuting those who violate our laws,” Letten said, according to the report.
He also addressed talk that the scandal may be a convenient way to bring his long tenure to a close. (George W. Bush-appointee Letten is the longest serving U.S. Attorney currently in office, having started in April 2001. Louisiana’s Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu supported Letten’s reappointment in 2009 but may now be eager to recommend a Democrat for the plum position.)
“My future is not what’s important. What I’ve got to remember, we’ve all got to remember is the future of the people we serve, the future of the U.S. Attorney’s Office,” he said.
Jim Bernazzani, former FBI Special Agent in Charge in New Orleans, told WWL-TV that Letten has been “victimized” in the episode. “He’s one of the brightest lights in this city,” he said.
Looking forward, Letten said he is making sure his prosecutors do not take their “eye off the ball.”
“Yeah, we have challenges,” he said. “We have significant challenges that we are working through in that arena right now.”