WASHINGTON – Congressman Cedric Richmond has asked that Ken Polite, the new U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana, be freed from investigating his own office in the online comments scandal.
Richmond urged Attorney General Eric Holder to continue the investigation into the local online comment scandal from the local U.S. Attorney's Office, which led to several high-level attorneys leaving the New Orleans-based office and a judge tossing the convictions of former New Orleans police officers accused of shooting unarmed civilians post-Katrina and running a cover-up.
In a letter to Holder, Richmond asks that Polite not be burdened by running the investigation as he is staffing the office.
“Mr. Polite should not be tasked with investigating his staff and predecessors for these misdeeds. That is why it is imperative that you expand the ongoing investigation and empower it with independent prosecutorial power to make all relevant facts public and bring any breach of law to light,” Richmond wrote.
It was Holder who appointed John Horn to run the investigation into the online comments on Nola.com by attorneys from the local office on ongoing cases. Former Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sal Perricone and Jan Mann both left office after admitting to making online comments. Jim Letten eventually stepped down as U.S. Attorney.
The Horn report led U.S. District Court Judge Kurt Engelhardt to throw out the convictions of five former New Orleans Police Department officers who were accused of shooting unarmed civilians on the Danziger Bridge and then running a cover-up to justify the officers’ actions.
Richmond has asked Holder to make the findings of the Horn report public. But he also asked Holder to keep the investigation going because questions about the scope of the online commenting scandal are still unanswered.
“Nevertheless, there are considerable improprieties that remain unexamined,” Richmond wrote. “I am distressed by Judge Engelhardt’s statement that ‘much is still not known about the nature and extent of government activities similar to those reflected herein.’ Going further, the Court discloses that it has 'seen the government omit pertinent facts, [and] conceal material information…'"
Richmond noted that the investigation is essential to regain the public’s trust in the local U.S. Attorney’s Office. “I urge you to give Mr. Polite the flexibility to quickly staff his office with seasoned prosecutors free from the taint of this ongoing investigation.”