Last week, a judge overturned the convictions of the New Orleans police officers found to be involved in the post-Katrina Danziger bridge shootings, due to prosecutorial misconduct. A district judge found that two prosecutors from the US Attorney's office posted "inflammatory" comments about the Danziger bridge case on NOLA.com, and that prosecutors also orchestrated leaks to damage the cops' reputation in the press.
The judge's order has opened the door for New Orleans' gallery of corrupt ex-officials facing trial to appeal. Former Mayor Ray Nagin, who is supposed to go on trial next month on charges of bribery related to post-Katrina contracting work, became the first, filing a motion to postpone his trial indefinitely because of the revelations in the Danziger order. Via NOLA.com:
In his filing Nagin's attorney, Robert Jenkins, highlighted Perricone's comments on NOLA.com to argue that the same misconduct that disturbed Engelhardt is a concern in the Nagin prosecution. The most notorious of those comments was posted by Perricone in June 2009 under the online hand "campstblue." It read: "For all of you who have a penchant for firearms and how they work, Ray Nagin lives on Park Island."
But Jenkins also highlighted comments from Perricone with racial implications. One comment read: "Thank you MssrsBarthelemy, Morial and Nagin. You three stooges wrought upon this city one disaster after another. This is just more evidence of your collective racism and incompetence." The comment refers to former New Orleans Mayors Sidney Barthelemy and Marc Morial, who like Nagin, are African-Americans.
Jenkins also cited this Perricone comment: "I am not (SIC) beginning to believe that the Nagin administration has exceeded the Marc Morial administration in denying the citizens of New Orleans of their right to honest government for profit."
The Justice Department, naturally, is pushing back, calling Nagin's efforts a "last ditch effort" and insisting the two prosecutors whose misconduct torpedoed the Danziger bridge convictions "had absolutely nothing to do" with the Nagin case.
This summer, NOLA.com sought the release of documents related to prosecutorial misconduct uncovered by the judge, arguing there was a public interest in misconduct that could overturn the Danziger bridge officers' convictions. Many of those details are laid out in the 129-page order (pdf) granting the motion for a new trial. The Department of Justice has not yet decided whether to appeal the decision. Other New Orleans officials, including a former council member convicted in relation to corruption by former Congressman William "put the money in the freezer" Jefferson and a Nagin administration official involved in post-Katrina redevelopment, are expected to follow Nagin in seeking their own delays due to alleged prosecutorial misconduct.