NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A federal judge refused Wednesday to order a hearing on allegations that grand jury leaks and prosecutorial misconduct tainted the corruption case against former Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard.
U.S. District Judge Hayden Head also rejected Broussard’s bid to disqualify the U.S. Attorney’s office in New Orleans from handling his case.
Broussard’s lawyer, Robert Jenkins, accused former U.S. Attorney Jim Letten’s office of failing to thoroughly investigate the source of alleged leaks to reporters from local television stations WVUE-TV and WWL-TV about Broussard’s impending indictment. Jenkins also said his client was the subject of two prosecutors’ anonymous posts on a newspaper’s website at the same time Letten’s office was investigating him.
Head, however, said holding an evidentiary hearing on Broussard’s claims would afford “little gain” given that Broussard already has pleaded guilty in the case and hasn’t asked to withdraw his plea.
Letten resigned in December amid a Justice Department probe of comments that Jan Mann, who was his chief deputy, and fellow prosecutor Sal Perricone anonymously posted on nola.com, The Times-Picayune’s companion website. Perricone resigned in March. Mann retired last month.
Head said the trio’s departures have essentially given Broussard the relief he was seeking in his recusal bid.
“There is a new sheriff in town,” the judge wrote.
Jenkins argued that the derogatory posts about his client show that high-ranking prosecutors plotted to destroy Broussard’s public image. Prosecutors rejected Broussard’s allegations and said the hearing he wanted would be a legally impermissible “fishing expedition.”
Broussard pleaded guilty in September to charges he cheated taxpayers in a payroll fraud scheme and took payoffs from a parish contractor. Four other people — Broussard’s ex-wife, two former parish officials and a parish contractor — already had pleaded guilty in the case and agreed to cooperate with federal authorities.
Head is scheduled to sentence Broussard on Feb. 25.
The scandal that led to Letten’s resignation also has provided fodder for five former New Orleans police officers to challenge their federal convictions stemming from deadly shootings on a bridge after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005.
In November, U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt ordered the Justice Department to conduct a new investigation of news reports that said a former police lieutenant, Michael Lohman, would plead guilty in the Danziger Bridge case when his case was still under seal. Engelhardt instructed prosecutors to question reporters for The Associated Press and Times-Picayune about the sources of their information about Lohman’s anticipated plea or else state in writing why they won’t.
The department appointed John Horn, a veteran federal prosecutor from Georgia, to conduct the new probe. Friday is the deadline for Horn to submit a report to Engelhardt.