Letten: 'We are strong. We will not be distracted'

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wwltv.com

Posted on November 29, 2012 at 7:13 PM

Updated Thursday, Nov 29 at 7:21 PM

Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News
Email: pmurphy@wwltv.com | Twitter: @pmurphywwl

NEW ORLEANS -- U.S. Attorney Jim Letten went on the record Thursday about the online commenting scandal in his office.

Letten addressed the issue at a luncheon in downtown New Orleans.

"Your United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana is strong," Letten told members of the New Orleans Police and Justice Foundation. "We are focused. We are fully engaged and moving forward, only forward without missing a step."

A bold statement from a man whose office is under fire.

Earlier this month, Letten's then-First Assistant Jan Mann admitted to posting comments about ongoing investigations and newsmakers on a local news website.

This spring, another former top prosecutor Sal Perricone resigned amid similar revelations.

Letten first public statements since Mann's activities were outed in a defamation lawsuit, focused on restoring confidence in the work of his office.

"Know this, neither I, nor this U.S. Attorney's Office will be distracted or deterred from fairly, aggressively, relentlessly investigating, pursuing and prosecuting those who violate our laws," said Letten.

Despite the misconduct on his watch, Letten still had plenty of supporters in the room full of local law enforcers and business leaders.

Former FBI Special Agent in Charge Jim Bernazzani said Letten misplaced his trust in two prosecutors who hid behind fake online handles.

"If Jimmy Letten speaks, you know it's Jimmy Letten," said Bernazzani. "If Jim Bernazzani speaks, it's Jim Bernazzani. There's no fake names. Those who hide behind fake names, I consider cowards."

Bernazzani said Letten is still a hero to New Orleans and the misdeeds of a few in his office do not detract from his reputation as a crime fighter and hard nose prosecutor.

"I think Jim has been victimized. He's a good guy. He's one of the brightest lights in this city."

Former New Orleans Crime Coalition Chairman Greg Rusovich said business leaders will fight any attempt to replace Letten with a "political" appointee.

"He's had a tremendous impact on our recovery, a tremendous impact on the assault on public corruption," said Rusovich. "Should there be any change, which I think would be setback, that it's someone that's got complete integrity and that we reject and repudiate anyone that doesn't have complete integrity and the kind of reputation that would be aligned with this position."

While some suggest Jim Letten may have a difficult time handing on to this job, for his part Letten says he's not talking about his personal future.

"My future is not what's important," Letten told reporters. "What I've got to remember, we've all got to remember is the future of the people we serve, the future of the U.S. Attorney's Office. The future of this region."

When asked if he thought Perricone and Mann were the only ones commenting online, Letten responded by saying there is more than one internal investigation now underway in his office.

"My message is that we do not take our eye off the ball," said Letten. "Yeah, we have challenges. We have significant challenges that we are working through in that arena right now."

 

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