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New Orleans AUSA Caught Up in Online Comments Debacle

Posted in Governmental Misconduct

Sal Perricone, former senior litigation counsel in the New Orleans U.S. Attorney’s Office, has been identified as an anonymous, frequent commenter on the Times Picayune (my favorite newspaper name by the way) website, Nola.com, regarding an investigation he was conducting. Perricone, who, apparently stepped down as senior litigation counsel (a position frequently given to the more experienced AUSAs in an office), in the wake of this scandal is presently on leave from the office.

Perricone’s public unraveling began Monday, when the reported target of one of his investigations, Fred Heebe, filed a lawsuit in the Louisana state courts alleging that comments made under the moniker, HLMencken51, on nola.com, were defamatory, and that Perricone was believed to have authored the posts. In all, Perricone authored several hundred posts on nola.com, many of which were about Heebe and his company, River Birch Landfill, which is at the center of a federal investigation.


Heebe’s attorney’s hired former FBI profiler, James Fitzgerald, who reviewed HLMencken51’s several hundred posts and compared them to Perricone’s pleadings filed in court and concluded that the known writings of Perricone were consistent with the authorship on the HLMencken posts. For instance, HLMencken1951 used the words "dubiety" and "redoubt" both of which appear in the legal documents filed by Perricone and his fellow prosecutors. Also, Fitzgerald noted that Mencken used unusual alliterative phrases, strikingly similar to those of Perricone.


The New Orleans based U.S. Attorney, Jim Letten, said that when confronted, Perricone admitted being the author of the HLMencken comments. 

Letten, commented that he hoped the integrity of the investigations overseen by Perricone would not be compromised. I was surprised that he expressed no personal concern for his longtime AUSA, who obviously has some serious issues. Seems to me that investigations out of main Justice will begin about Perricone’s behavior in short order.