The Justice Department’s Hurricane-Strength Misconduct
The first was Assistant United States Attorney Salvador Perricone, a high-ranking supervisory attorney in the Louisiana U.S. Attorney’s Office. Even worse, anonymous postings were also made about the case by the First Assistant United States Attorney Jan Mann, the chief assistant to United States Attorney in Louisiana Jim Letten. At an initial hearing called by the judge about the leak allegations, Mann sat in the courtroom and remained silent as her boss, Jim Letten, stood up and told Judge Engelhardt that neither he nor Jan Mann had any knowledge or involvement in these leaks and the anonymous blog postings.
The judge ordered the Justice Department to investigate the matter “to discern the source of the leaks” and Perricone’s contacts with other government employees and to file a report with the judge. That report was “supervised, compiled, written and submitted” by Jan Mann, the anonymous blogger, who claimed in the report that no one “associated with the government” was the source of leaks. She failed to reveal her involvement or her knowledge of Perricone’s activities.
When Perricone was examined under oath over his anonymous postings by the judge at a hearing, Mann was actually there representing the government. She not only failed again to reveal her knowledge of and participation in the blogging, but she “objected on the record to certain questions asked of Perricone.”
Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Mike Magner testified that Mann’s husband, who is also an assistant U.S. attorney in the same office, was anonymous blogger Perricone’s “best friend.” They spent a great deal of time together and Magner found it “very difficult” to believe that Mann would not know about Perricone’s anonymous blogging. Mann was only discovered as being one of the other anonymous bloggers after another lawsuit was filed against her in federal court in November identifying her.
Judge Engelhardt essentially called both AUSAs liars, saying that “no one, especially this Court, could reasonably find it credible that Perricone and former First AUSA Mann, while posting under the same nola.com articles, and responding to and echoing each other’s posts, were unaware of the identity of the other.”
In further proceedings before the judge, the U.S. attorney tried to shift responsibility for DOJ’s internal investigation to the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) at DOJ. Letten issued a press release saying that because the matter was under review by OPR, he would not release any further information about his lawyers’ misbehavior.
So what was the response of OPR to this unethical, unlawful, and potentially perjurious behavior by DOJ employees, which Judge Engelhardt says “might also constitute prosecutable criminal conduct?”
Placing the investigation in the hands of OPR “seems useless,” Judge Engelhardt noted in his opinion:
First of all, having the DOJ investigate itself will likely only yield a delayed yet unconvincing result in which no confidence can rest. If no wrongdoing is uncovered, it will come as a surprise to no one given the conflict of interest existing between the investigator and the investigated. Moreover, the Perricone matter has been under investigation for eight months (since March), and yet it comes as a complete surprise to everyone at DOJ and the U.S. Attorney’s Office that another “poster” exists, especially one maintaining as high a position in the U.S. Attorney’s Office. It is difficult to imagine how this could possibly have been missed by OPR, and surely raises concerns about the capabilities and adequacy of DOJ’s investigatory techniques as exercised through OPR.
Judge Engelhardt pointed out the incongruity of this entire situation. Posting anonymous online comments “might be unprofessional and unethical, but not criminal.” But activities of DOJ employees the court was looking at also included “apparent false testimony/statements (by commission or omission), suborning false testimony, and making false statement to a federal judge. … Ironically, the defendants in this case have been accused and convicted of counts involving conduct designed to ‘cover up’ or obscure material facts.” Yet the DOJ lawyers involved seem to have engaged in the same behavior.