18 USC § 1621, the federal statute criminalizing perjury and setting forth the penalties is well-known by federal prosecutors:
Whoever -- (1) having taken an oath before a competent tribunal, officer, or person, in any case in which a law of the United States authorizes an oath to be administered, that he will testify, declare, depose, or certify truly, or that any written testimony, declaration, deposition, or certificate by him subscribed, is true, willfully and contrary to such oath states or subscribes any material matter which he does not believe to be true; or (2) in any declaration, certificate, verification, or statement under penalty of perjury…willfully subscribes as true any material matter which he does not believe to be true; is guilty of perjury and shall, except as otherwise expressly provided by law, be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.
The U.S. Attorney’s office in New Orleans, as well as many other jurisdictions around the country, has often used the threat of perjury charges to sway defendants and witnesses in federal criminal cases to the will of prosecutors.
Backers of the tactic call it just another tool to get justice in the rough-and-tumble justice system. Detractors say it is often used as a strong-arm tactic to squeeze witnesses who otherwise have no criminal connection to a case other than usefulness to prosecutors as a means to an end.
Now, two of those same prosecutors could be facing charges of perjury following sworn testimony before a local federal judge.
U.S. District Judge Federal Judge Kurt Englehardt this week issued a lengthy response to a motion for retrial for NOPD officers convicted following the Danziger Bridge shootings. The meat of the motion by defense attorneys is the alleged misconduct within U.S. Attorney Jim Letten’s office, including reported leaks to the media and the online anonymous blogging by prosecutors Sal Perricone and Jan Mann.
In his 50-page official response to the NOPD officers’ motion, Judge Englehardt excoriated the admitted misconduct by Perricone and Mann.
“Aside from the ugly tincture they have placed on the otherwise good name of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Court is also concerned that the activities of Perricone and former First AUSA Mann, both of those of commission and those of omission, might also constitute prosecutable criminal conduct,” Englehardt wrote.
Following earlier defense motions following the revelation that Sal Perricone posted hundreds of sharply-worded online anonymous posts under several handles, Englehardt brought in Perricone for questioning under oath in October about his apparent blogging about open cases. In his order issued this week, Englehardt said he had a tough time believing that Perricone was telling the truth.
“As it stands now, it seems clear that Perricone testified falsely in at least some important respects: first of all, his statement that no one in the office was aware that he was posting was surely false,” Englehardt wrote.
The judge went on to say, “Quite simply, no one, especially this Court, could reasonably find it credible that Perricone and former First AUSA Mann, while posting under the same nola.com articles, and responding to and echoing each other’s’ posts, were unaware of the identity of the other.”
Further, Englehardt wrote that he found it “inconceivable that Perricone did not know, at the time he gave sworn testimony, that “eweman” was seated only two chairs away…in the person of Former First AUSA Mann.”
Englehardt went on to conclude that Perricone’s testimony that no one else in Jim Letten’s office knew what he was doing online “is very likely false.”
Turning his analysis to Jan Mann, the judge wrote that his concerns over Mann’s activities are even larger. Englehardt noted that as Jim Letten testified to his court that it was “the “gospel truth” that (to his knowledge) no one in his office, and then-First AUSA Mann specifically, were aware of Perricone’s postings,” Mann sat silent in the same courtroom. Englehardt also pointed out that Mann similarly sat silent during Perricone’s testimony that no one else in the office was aware of his online activity, and the judge wrote that Mann was less than truthful in correspondence with the court about the blogging scandal.
Englehardt concluded by saying Mann’s future troubles include possible violations of the rules of professional conduct for attorneys, and that she and Perricone’s alleged untruthfulness could also constitute possible “criminal activity.”
U.S. Attorney Jim Letten has repeatedly declined to comment on Englehardt’s ruling and conclusion that two of Letten’s top prosecutors were untruthful while under oath.
Meanwhile, the Judge has recommended that an outside, independent investigator be brought in to investigate the alleged misconduct surrounding the blogging scandal, as “the Court has little confidence the (DOJ Office of Professional Responsibility) will fully investigate and come to conclusions with anywhere near the efficiency and certainty offered by suitable court-appointed counsel. The Court strongly urges DOJ to do so post haste.”