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Legal Ethics

Federal Prosecutor Resigns After He Is Kicked Off Some Cases for Anonymous Online Comments

Posted Mar 16, 2012 7:16 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Updated: A federal prosecutor in New Orleans has resigned after acknowledging he made anonymous online comments about the owner of a landfill that is the subject of a federal probe.

The prosecutor, Sal Perricone, admitted making hundreds of posts at NOLA.com using the name Henry L. Mencken1951, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the Associated Press and WWLTV.com. Perricone resigned on March 20, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports in a later story.

Before Perricone's resignation, U.S. Attorney Jim Letten announced that the prosecutor had been removed from all matters on which he commented at the website, which publishes stories by the Times-Picayune. He referred the matter to the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility.

Perricone also used the handle to criticize federal judges, political figures and his boss. In one comment, Mencken1951 asserted that U.S. District Judge Helen "Ginger" Berrigan is someone who “loves killers.” In another, the writer complained that Letten “is great for taking credit for other people's hard work. It is the assistants and agents who do the work and should be congratulated."

Perricone told Letten he was the author after the landfill owner hired a forensic linguistics expert to examine nearly 600 comments made by Mencken1951. The expert found striking similarities between the online comments and a brief written by Perricone. The Times-Picayune lists some examples: The author of the posts and the brief used alliteration and antiquated words such as "dubiety" and "redoubt."

Perricone’s handle apparently refers to Henry Louis “H.L.” Mencken, a Baltimore Sun columnist who died in 1956.

Story updated on March 28 to include news of Perricone's resignation.

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