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NEW ORLEANS Assistant U.S. Attorney Sal Perricone was placed on annual leave Friday, according to U.S. Attorney Jim Letten. The move comes a day after Perricone was identified by Letten as the commenter 'Henry L. Mencken1951' on Nola.com.

Perricone's commentary on the website often covered federal investigations and local politics.

'The comments were potentially very damaging to the processes,' said Letten. 'I am committed and determined to making this consent decree a very positive blue print for NOPD to go forward with this.'

A day earlier when Letten announced Perricone was posting under the pseudonym, Letten said he contacted the Department of Justice and that the Office of Professional Responsibility is now investigating whether Perricone's comments constitute misconduct.

Perricone's postings as Mencken included criticisms of judges and of Letten himself and there were some concerning the River Birch probe. The identity of Perricone as the writer of the comments came to light after River Birch co-owner Fred Heebe claimed in a court petition that the comments made by Mencken were actually made by Perricone.

Letten said he is unsure when Perricone will come back to the office, and added Perricone is no longer an advisory assistant U.S. attorney.

Perricone is also no longer working on the consent decree for the Justice Department to formally oversee the New Orleans Police Department, said Letten. Letten said he will appoint Perricone's replacement on these negotiations.

Letten said he spoke with Mayor Mitch Landrieu regarding Perricone's actions, but didn't divulge what the conversation between the two entailed.

'I think it's fair to say that we all should be very troubled by it,' Landrieu said earlier when asked about the revelations that Perricone was posting under the Menken handle on Nola.com.

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