An attorney for Ray Nagin on Wednesday demanded that the U.S. Attorney’s Office produce a copy of an investigative report about several federal prosecutors’ anonymous online commenting habits, along with transcripts and other documents related to the grand jury that indicted the former New Orleans mayor.
This is the second time Nagin has sought documents related to the online-commenting scandal plaguing the office of former U.S. Attorney Jim Letten. In his new motion, lawyer Robert Jenkins makes a much more explicitly racial appeal, noting that both he and Nagin are African-American, and saying that the posts by at least one of Letten’s top lieutenants “project a racial animus.”
U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan rebuffed an earlier attempt by Nagin to seek the records, saying that the postings by former prosecutors Sal Perricone and Jan Mann were “utterly juvenile” but did not constitute grounds to delay Nagin’s trial.
Mann and Perricone left the U.S. Attorney’s Office last year after acknowledging they used pseudonyms to post inflammatory comments at Nola.com, including remarks about ongoing cases at federal court.
At the insistence of U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt, presiding over a different case, a special prosecutor investigated the commenting and issued several reports to the judge.
Those reports remain under seal.
Nagin, who faces 21 counts of bribery and tax evasion, is scheduled to go on trial starting Oct. 28.
“The court acknowledges the utterly juvenile postings by various prosecutors and how much they demeaned their high offices in doing so,” Berrigan wrote in response to Nagin’s earlier motion.
“But an indictment, as the jury will be told, is not evidence of guilt. The jury, and only the jury, will decide whether the defendant is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.”
In his new motion to “compel discovery,” Jenkins said he must have access to the secret reports to determine the extent of government misconduct as it relates to the Nagin case. He cites a number of intemperate posts by Perricone about Nagin, including several in which Perricone asserts that Nagin is corrupt.
Federal prosecutor Matthew Coman filed a response to Jenkins’ latest motion, arguing that the investigation into the commenting is irrelevant to the Nagin case and that Nagin is not entitled to grand jury materials.