Ex-U.S. attorney’s attachment accused
Ray Nagin’s attorney is taking issue with the government’s recent claim that top brass in former U.S. Attorney Jim Letten’s office had little involvement with the federal corruption case against the former New Orleans mayor.
In a motion filed Tuesday, attorney Robert Jenkins said he spoke with Jan Mann, Letten’s longtime first assistant, about the Nagin case on at least one occasion before both Mann and Letten resigned in December, amid the online-commenting scandal that has engulfed the office. Nagin was indicted about a month later.
Jenkins’ motion doesn’t elaborate on the nature of his discussions with Mann, but it said the government’s assertions should be viewed with skepticism.
“Given the extensive media attention and involvement in one of the highest-profile cases to be investigated in a decade ... it is hard to accept blindly the government’s suggestion that the former United States attorney, the former first assistant United States attorney, as well as senior staff within the United States Attorney’s Office were aloof from the protracted investigation and were entirely detached,” Jenkins wrote.
The motion also suggests the prosecution of the former mayor — who faces 21 counts of bribery and tax evasion in an alleged kickback scheme — may have personal or racial roots.
“The defendant, an African-American, is entitled to learn the extent of personal and racial animus by government attorneys towards him,” the motion said.
“The online postings by government attorneys already evidence wholly unacceptable personal and racial commentary about the defendant.”
Jenkins’ motion is a follow-up to one he filed last week seeking a delay of the mayor’s trial, now set for Oct. 28. The earlier motion requested copies of the various reports produced by John Horn, a special prosecutor from Atlanta who was brought in to probe the commenting scandal and other possible misconduct by federal investigators and prosecutors.
Jenkins’ new motion reiterates that request and seeks other materials related to the probe, including reports, affidavits, subpoenas, transcripts and depositions. If U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan is unwilling to grant a continuance in the case, the motion asks for an evidentiary hearing, at which Letten, Mann and Sal Perricone, another former prosecutor who resigned amid the commenting uproar, would have to submit to questioning under oath.
Last week, lead prosecutor Matthew Coman filed a motion saying Berrigan should reject Nagin’s motion for a delay, in part because Letten, Mann and Perricone had little to do with the Nagin case.
“These individuals did not direct, counsel or suggest any course of action related to this investigation or prosecution,” Coman’s motion said. “All of the evidence gathering, witness interviews, investigative decisions, record analysis, and document reviews were performed by trial attorneys and federal agents handling the case.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office, now headed by Kenneth Polite, declined comment on Jenkins’ latest motion.