NEW ORLEANS - A federal judge has signed off on the Justice Department's decision to drop the embezzlement case against a Louisiana landfill executive and his brother-in-law.
Monday's order by U.S. District Judge Helen "Ginger" Berrigan marks the official end to a case marred by anonymous online comments posted by federal prosecutors.
Last Friday, federal prosecutors asked Berrigan to dismiss the indictment of River Birch landfill executive Dominick Fazzio and Mark Titus "with prejudice," meaning they cannot refile the charges. Lawyers from the Justice Department's public integrity section say their request was based on "evidentiary concerns and in the interests of justice."
The New Orleans-based U.S. Attorney's office stepped aside from the case last year after the resignation of veteran prosecutor Sal Perricone. He admitted he had been anonymously posting comments on a newspaper's website about judges, politicians and cases, including a broader probe involving the River Birch landfill.
River Birch co-owner Fred Heebe's lawyers, who unmasked Perricone as the author of the posts, said Justice Department officials informed them last Friday that they won't be pursuing any charges against their client. A Justice Department wouldn't confirm that.
The commenting scandal led to former U.S. Attorney Jim Letten's resignation in December. Letten's longtime top deputy, Jan Mann, was demoted and retired after she also acknowledged posting anonymous comments on nola.com, The Times-Picayune's companion website.
Fazzio and Titus were charged with conspiring to embezzle nearly $1 million from a New Orleans-based construction management company where Titus worked.