NEW ORLEANS - U.S. Attorney Jim Letten now has a new top assistant. Today, he announced the promotion of longtime prosecutor Fred Harper.
Harper replaces former First Assistant Jan Mann who was demoted this week for improper online blogging.
Harper is now acting First Assistant U.S. Attorney and Chief of the Criminal Division for the Eastern District of Louisiana.
He has served with Letten for more than 30 years and tried some of the biggest cases in the New Orleans-based jurisdiction. Harper was on the prosecution team that convicted former Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards on racketeering charges. He was also the lead prosecutor in a corruption case involving former Mandeville Mayor Eddie Price. And he was a lead prosecutor on cases involving Mose Jefferson, Stan "Pampy" Barre and Antoine Saacks.
Harper came under fire earlier this year when it was revealed he accompanied former Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard on some fundraising trips to Lake Tahoe. In September, Broussard pleaded guilty to public corruption charges stemming from a payroll fraud scheme.
His promotion comes at a time when the office has been rocked by two blogging scandals involving high-ranking prosecutors. Both Mann and former Assistant U.S. Attorney Sal Perricone have admitted to posting comments about cases and news makers using anonymous online handles. Mann under the name "eweman". Perricone under the name "Henry L Mencken 1951".
Both were outed in separate defamation lawsuits filed by embattled businessman Fred Heebe. While no charges have been filed, Heebe and his River Birch Landfill are targets of a federal criminal investigation.
Mann remains an AUSA, but is taking vacation time while the Department of Justice's Office of Professional Responsibility investigates her blogging.
Meanwhile, Letten's own job security appears to be in jeopardy. Today, Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-LA, told Eyewitness News she would like to have a private conversation with Letten, because "there are things to be discussed."
For now, Louisiana's other U.S. Senator David Vitter is reserving comment on the blogging scandal and Letten's future. According to published reports, Vitter called the blogging allegation, "very serious."
Letten needs the backing of both senators to be reappointed as U.S. Attorney.