Ex-prosecutor blames drug in posting scandal
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A former federal prosecutor says he was taking sleep medication when he made anonymous online comments that later prompted a judge to overturn convictions in a major New Orleans police scandal.
In a federal court filing in Baton Rouge, Sal Perricone acknowledges making online comments that led to his 2012 resignation — and the eventual order of a new trial for police charged in deadly shootings after Hurricane Katrina. He says he was using the prescription drug Ambien at the time because he had been sleeping only three or four hours a night.
"As embarrassing as it is, I do not remember making many of the comments ascribed to me," Perricone says in the filing dated Aug. 6. "The effects of the drug I was taking seems to have had a somnambulant effect on me."
Perricone says he had a constitutional right to make the comments but acknowledged that they raised ethical questions. He apologized and vowed never to repeat such conduct.
The filing was in response to a court order for Perricone to show why his right to practice in the Baton Rouge federal court should not be terminated. He can no longer practice in the New Orleans district.
Perricone and another assistant U.S. attorney in New Orleans, Jan Mann, acknowledged in 2012 that they posted anonymous comments about cases at a newspaper's website.
Both resigned. Their boss, then-U.S. Attorney Jim Letten, resigned later as the fallout from the scandal grew, although he was not implicated in the online postings.
Various defense attorneys have pointed to the comments in attempts to aid their clients who were charged when Perricone and Mann were in office. Most have met with little or no success.
However, Perricone's comments were cited by the New Orleans federal judge in the case of five former police officers connected to deadly shootings of unarmed people at New Orleans' Danziger Bridge following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Four officers accused of being involved in the shooting and one tied to a subsequent cover-up are awaiting a new trial after their convictions were thrown out.
Perricone said he was not involved in the case and that his comments had no effect on it. "I submit that none of my comments reached the ears of any juror or in any way deprived any defendant of a fair trial," he wrote, adding that The Times-Picayune wrote hundreds of articles that generated thousands of online comments on the case. None, he asserts, affected the case.