We previously discussed the bizarre scandal unfolding in the New Orleans U.S. Attorney’s Office. Fred Heebe, a Louisiana landfill owner, has filed an interesting defamation lawsuit against a federal prosecutor who he claims has used anonymous identities to trash him on the Internet. Using a former FBI forensic linguist expert, Heebe has shown remarkable similarities between language used in filings by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sal Perricone and statements written by someone on media websites under the name “Henry L. Mencken1951.” With the finding that the language overlap “strongly indicates” Perricone, Heebe has filed suit and issued subpoenas. The federal case involves alleged bribes (including an almost $500,000 bribe to a state official) to close a rival landfill in Gretna, Louisiana. Heebe however was never charged with a crime. Perricone, 61, has since resigned after 21 years as a prosecutor but an investigation continued at the Justice Department as well as the civil lawsuit. He recently admitted to posting hundreds of comments. Now the scandal has caused U.S. Attorney Jim Letten to demote his second-in-command, First Assistant U.S. Attorney Jan Mann.
I had previously heard from Ms. Mann with regard to the prior posting to clarify that she was not implicated in the earlier allegations. Indeed, there was not a reference to her and wrongdoing. She was referred to as the “brains” of the respective team. However, that appears to have changed.
In March, Heebe’s disclosure of the involvement of Sal Perricone led to a fast resignation. Reporters are now saying that it appears that Mann had also posted statements at NOLA.com. There is speculation (but no confirmation) that she may be “eweman” or used another anonymous moniker. If true, it is not clear how long Mann has to remain at the Justice Department in any capacity. This matter was investigated and she likely made statements to her superiors or investigators. It is not clear if any of those statements are being alleged as false. The Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility is investigating the matter. Federal prosecutors routinely charge people with making even relatively minor false statements to federal investigators. Little is known about the specific allegation leading to Mann’s demotion.
Previously, Letten portrayed Perricone as a lone wolf — adding to the embarrassment over this demotion.
Mann’s problem is not just the ongoing investigation but the threat of civil litigation — and more importantly civil discovery. With this demotion, there would be ample reason to demand testimony on her alleged role — creating a two-front threat that defense counsel loathe.
Here is the original lawsuit: PDF–Mann-Lawsuit