As was expected, the federal government is appealing the ruling of U.S. District Court Judge Kurt Englehardt which overturned the convictions of 5 former New Orleans police officers in the Danziger Bridge case because the judge found “grotesque” and “bizarre” prosecutorial misconduct in the case. The misconduct centers around assistant prosecutors of former U.S. Attorney Jim Letten who posted comments at the end of articles on NOLA.com about cases their office handled, including the Danziger Bridge case. Jan Mann and Sal Perricone were the two prosecutors from New Orleans who made online comments along with Karla Dobinski, a prosecutor in the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.
Prosecutors from the Department of Justice filed a notice of appeal on October 18 and will file the appeal in the 5th Circuit in the coming months.
Click here to read a terrific op-ed by the co-author of a study in the Yale Law Journal that demonstrates the woeful inadequacy of state bars to curb prosecutorial misconduct, who points out that the Danziger Bridge case is one of the rare instances where prosecutors have suffered repercussions for their unethical behavior.
In related news, Judge Englehardt has released formerly sealed records in response to a public records request by The Times Picayune (the print version of online partner NOLA.com) and the Associated Press, who sought information on the DOJ’s investigation into Letten’s office in the wake of the online posting scandal, including conjecture that someone had leaked that the government was arranging a plea deal with one of the Danziger Bridge defendants.
While the media outlets didn’t get everything they asked for, Englehardt released more than 400 pages of documents. These documents revealed that an internal probe by Letten’s office found that the above-mentioned plea deal wasn’t leaked; rather, the media must have been able to ‘join the dots’, the review concluded. The documents also allegedly show how resistant the government was to turning over information pertaining to the online posts of Mann and Perricone to defense attorneys in the Danziger Bridge case.
We will keep you posted when the government files its appeal.