Judge expresses concern over effects of online comments on Danziger ruling

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wwltv.com

Posted on November 27, 2012 at 7:55 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 28 at 9:58 AM

Mike Perlstein / Eyewitness News
Email: mperlstein@wwltv.com | Twitter: @mikeperlstein

NEW ORLEANS -- The online comments by longtime prosecutor Sal Perricone and former First Assistant Jan Mann still appear to be a longshot to undo the five police convictions in the Danziger Bridge shooting case.

But federal Judge Kurt Engelhardt did not mince words in expressing deep concern, concern that is already reverberating through the legal community.

"What has happened through the motions that have been filed, and the exposing of Mr. Perricone and Ms. Mann, is that that fine-tuned machine, a wrench was stuck right in the middle of it,” said Eyewitness News legal analyst Donald “Chick” Foret. “And it just completely stopped. It stopped working. It's not working properly."

Fraternal Order of Police attorney Raymond Burkart said he and other attorneys are not only combing over the Danziger case. They’re reviewing the tactics of federal prosecutors in many other cases.

"That opens up a whole can of worms for everybody to call into question their convictions and whether or not they were actually set up to be convicted versus getting a fair and just trial," he said. "The problem really seems to be is what's going on in the U.S. Attorney's Office and what they're doing to make sure get convictions versus seeking justice."

One case that Burkart said he is scrutinizing more intensely is not even a criminal prosecution. The yet-to-be finalized consent decree between the U.S. Justice Department and the city was initially negotiated by Perricone before he was forced to resign.

"This not only calls into question those trials, it calls into question the whole consent decree process,” Burkart said. “At this point you have wonder what type of collusion was there."

The firestorm has even spilled into at least one high-profile civil case. Earl Truvia spent 27 years in prison before his conviction was overturned based on new evidence. His federal lawsuit against the prosecutors was recently thrown out, but now he has filed to have it re-opened because of online comments by the man who prosecuted him.

"Being that he opened his mouth, basically shot himself in the foot now, we're pursuing other litigation that's going to put him to the test of what he said,” Truvia said.

I spoke to Truvia's original prosecutor, Henry Julien, and not only did he admit posting the comments, he said he would repeat them in court if necessary. And if he does, the judge handling that case is Kurt Engelhardt.

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