New Orleans US Attorney Resigns Amidst Ethics Probe re Top Assistants' Internet Postings

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The nation’s longest-serving U.S. attorney announced his resignation Thursday at a press conference, effective in less than a week, but said he will stay on in a supporting role to help with the transition.

Citing unidentified sources, the Times-Picayune said U.S. Attorney Jim Letten of New Orleans is in discussions with a law firm about returning to private practice. He has served as U.S. attorney there for 11 years and has been with the Department of Justice for 28 years.

Letten’s move follows an ongoing scandal over anonymous Internet comments made by two of Letten’s top aides on a website for the newspaper concerning matters related to their work. One top prosecutor resigned earlier this year after a subject of the comments hired a skilled investigator, identified him and filed a defamation suit. The other top prosecutor was demoted as an investigation by the DOJ’s Office of Professional Responsibility continues.

Meanwhile, at the end of last month, as an earlier Times-Picayune article details, a federal judge issued what the newspaper describes as a “tartly worded” order calling for investigation of possible leaks by Letten’s office concerning its prosecution of law enforcement officers over a fatal shooting of apparently unarmed civilians on the Danziger Bridge in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

In a press release after Letten’s announcement of his resignation, the DOJ said John Horn, who serves as first assistant U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, will oversee the leaks probe regarding the Danziger Bridge case demanded by U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt. The release also announced that Dana Boente, the first assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia and a 28-year veteran federal prosecutor, will replace Letten on an interim basis.

The New York Times (reg. req.) and the Washington Post also have stories.

Related coverage: “Anonymous Blog Comments Snag Another US Prosecutor; Suit Cited ‘Superfluous Spacing’ as Clue”

Times-Picayune: “Timeline: Fred Heebe’s accusations against U.S. Attorney Jim Letten’s office”

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