The Justice Department’s Hurricane-Strength Misconduct
A federal judge orders an investigation of DOJ's "skullduggery" and "perfidy" during a Katrina shooting case.
December 4, 2012 - 7:34 am
Along with former Department of Justice lawyer and PJ Media Legal Editor J. Christian Adams, I have written a lot over the past several years about the misbehavior, unprofessionalism, and unethical conduct of lawyers at the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. We have also written of the bias and incompetence of the lawyers in DOJ’s Office of Professional Responsibility, which is supposed to investigate misconduct by Justice lawyers. But now there’s a new author writing about the “skullduggery” and “perfidy” of DOJ lawyers. Those are the words of Louisiana federal district court Judge Kurt D. Engelhardt. They appear in his 50-page order issued Nov. 26, 2012, in U.S. v. Bowen. (Christian Adams noted this order at PJ Media on November 28.)
Bowen involved the Obama administration’s prosecution of former New Orleans police officers for shooting suspected looters on New Orleans’ Danziger Bridge. The shooting occurred on September 4, 2005 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The case was handled by the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, as well as the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana. In August 2011, five of the six defendants were found guilty on numerous criminal counts, including making false statements to authorities to cover up what happened.
The defendants then filed a motion with Judge Engelhardt for new trials, claiming that the government attorneys had “engaged in a secret public relations campaign … [to ensure] that public opinion would be inflamed against the defendants, and that the government’s version of the facts would be well known before anyone set foot in a courtroom.” This was done through leaks to the media about “the activities of the federal grand jury, the identities of targets, the status of plea negotiations, and other sensitive confidential information that became widely known publicly before trial.”
Some of these leaks, particularly those of grand jury proceedings and sealed proceedings, violated the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.
There were also anonymous postings on Nola.com, the website run by the New Orleans Times Picayune, “both before and during the trial.” These postings “mocked the defense, attacked the defendants and their attorneys, were approbatory of the United States Department of Justice, declared the defendants obviously guilty, and discussed the jury’s deliberations.”
It turns out that many of the anonymous blog postings were made by two DOJ lawyers, although we don’t know yet how many others may have been involved.