High-profile U.S. attorney resigns amid investigation
NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans’ corruptionbusting federal prosecutor resigned Thursday after two top deputies became embroiled in a scandal that threatens to undermine some of his biggest cases and damaged his standing as one of the most popular public officials in a city with a rich history of graft.
U.S. Attorney Jim Letten, whose successful prosecution of a former Louisiana governor and numerous other public officials won him bipartisan praise for more than a decade, had been under mounting pressure ever since two veteran prosecutors admitted anonymously posting criticism of judges and comments about cases on a newspaper website.
At a news conference, Letten, 59, gave no reason for his resignation but said, “The decision ultimately was mine.”
He did not address the allegations against his underlings. But he previously said he had no idea what they were up to until their online activities were revealed in court filings.
Until recently, Letten, a Republican-apppointed holdover who has held the post since 2001, appeared to be a lock to keep his job during President Barack Obama’s second term.
Instead, his departure ends his tenure as the nation’s longest-serving U.S. attorney.
Letten won fame as an assistant U.S. attorney when he secured a racketeering conviction of former Gov. Edwin Edwards in 2000. His office also successfully prosecuted corrupt judges, killer police officers, bribe-taking school officials and post-Katrina scam artists.
The Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility is investigating the postings, which defense attorneys have cited as evidence the prosecutors improperly tried to influence cases.