High-pro­file U.S. at­tor­ney re­signs amid in­ves­ti­ga­tion

Austin American-Statesman - - THE SECOND FRONT - By michael Kun­zel­man

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.

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