Patterico's Pontifications

4/29/2008

More on the Louisiana Story (Short Version)

Filed under: Law,Politics — DRJ @ 11:53 am



[Guest post by DRJ]

Recently we posted a lengthy discussion concerning James G. Perdigao, an indicted Louisiana attorney who filed a motion to recuse the office of the federal prosecutor in his pending criminal case. In the motion, Perdigao made serious allegations that relate to the bribery conviction of former Governor Edwin Edwards as well as to Congressman William Jefferson, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana, the Department of Justice, and others.

It’s a complex story and I’m posting this to provide a shorter version and to introduce a related matter not covered in the original post.

If you want the very short version, there’s this helpful and clever visual aide of Perdigao’s Web created by 2klbofun at Ton of Fun. Great job, 2klbofun, and thanks!

In addition, in last Friday’s New Orleans Times-Picayune, columnist James Gill penned a brief and balanced analysis of the Perdigao story. Gill’s column includes two aspects of this story that were not fully covered in our earlier post: First, Gill notes the unusual vitriol in the prosecutor’s response to Perdiago’s motion to recuse. Second, Gill suggests the big picture that fits Perdiago’s allegations into chronological context, including how Perdiago’s claims explain confessed briber Robert Guidry’s “sweet deal” in the Edwards’ case:

“The abiding mystery of the Edwards trial is how come Guidry got such a sweet deal. After copping a plea and becoming the star government witness, Guidry was certainly entitled to a break, although five months in a half-way house seemed remarkably lenient after all the sleazy deals he admitted.

But that was not the biggest favor the feds did for Guidry. The license he secured for the Treasure Chest in Kenner eventually put more than $100 million in Guidry’s pocket. He was ordered to make restitution of just $3.5 million.

The explanation Perdigao now offers for that soft sentence is that Guidry, finding himself in trouble for bribing one public official, resolved that the best way to mitigate the damage was to bribe another.

So he paid Jefferson $1 million to ensure that his old protégé, then-U.S. Attorney Eddie Jordan, would go easy. Guidry, who kept large wads of cash in his freezer, could not have known at the time that Jefferson had similar habits, and Perdigao’s motion is silent on what happened to the alleged bribe after it was handed over. For good measure, Perdigao says, Guidry lent Jefferson’s brother Mose $300,000 around the same time.”

It’s an excellent column so read the whole thing.

In 2006, the local US Attorney’s office in New Orleans reportedly referred Perdigao’s claims to the Department of Justice for investigation by the Office of Professional Responsibility. In its response to Perdigao’s motion to recuse, the US Attorney’s office represented to the Court that:

“As they were levied, each accusation about the U.S. Attorney’s office including the claim that Perdigao’s cooperation was being leaked were contemporaneously referred to the DOJ Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) which determined there was no merit in them and closed their investigation in April 2007.”

The OPR’s mission is to “investigate allegations of misconduct involving Department attorneys that relate to the exercise of their authority to investigate, litigate or provide legal advice … .” Its Policies and Procedures provide that “[u]pon receipt, OPR reviews each allegation and determines whether further investigation is warranted.” An investigation can include a written response from the attorney involved, review of documents, and interviews. When the investigation is concluded, “OPR makes findings of fact and reaches conclusions as to whether professional misconduct has occurred.” The findings may be publicly disclosed in the following categories:

“1. A finding of intentional or knowing professional misconduct in the course of litigation or investigation where the Attorney General or Deputy Attorney General finds that the public interest in disclosure outweighs the privacy interest of the attorney and any law enforcement interests;

2. Any case involving an allegation of serious professional misconduct where there has been a demonstration of public interest, including referrals by a court or bar association, where the Attorney General or Deputy Attorney General finds that the public interest in disclosure outweighs the privacy interest of the attorney and any law enforcement interests;

3. Any case in which the attorney requests disclosure, where law enforcement interests are not compromised by the disclosure.”

As we concluded in our post and as James Gill notes in his column, there are compelling reasons not to believe Perdigao’s claims and there are reasons that suggest his allegations may be true. Hopefully we will learn more if the OPR releases its findings or if the court holds an evidentiary hearing.

Stay tuned.

— DRJ

3 Responses to “More on the Louisiana Story (Short Version)”

  1. DRJ:

    Again, it would really make everything clearer if you would post a simple, year-month timeline of all of the alleged events, along with the known events.

    As I sort of understand it, you’re talking about two different US Attorneys, at least two different Assistant USAs, two different presidential administrations, and so forth; but you keep using expressions — both in quotations and also your own analysis — like, “Perdigao made serious allegations that relate to the bribery conviction of former Governor Edwin Edwards as well as to Congressman William Jefferson, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana, the Department of Justice, and others;” “So he paid Jefferson $1 million to ensure that his old protégé, then-U.S. Attorney Eddie Jordan, would go easy;” and “In 2006, the local US Attorney’s office in New Orleans reportedly referred Perdigao’s claims to the Department of Justice for investigation by the Office of Professional Responsibility.”

    In the first article, you and Patterico wrote or quoted:

    “Did a prosecutor in the New Orleans U.S. Attorney’s Office commit misconduct which could jeopardize the conviction of former Louisiana governor Edwin Edwards?”

    “[H]e filed a motion to recuse the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Louisiana from prosecuting his criminal case.”

    “In the latter appeal, Edwards unsuccessfully argued that the U.S. Attorney failed to provide Edwards’s defense with all exculpatory evidence of Guidry’s deal with the U.S. Attorney.”

    You see, I hope, how this can all be very confusing without a timeline to show which USA — Jordan or Letter — is meant by each of these sentences, along with which AUSA, which criminal thug, and which administration.

    Please, a simple year-month timeline!

    Thanks,

    Dafydd

    Dafydd ab Hugh (db2ea4)

  2. Dafydd,

    I appreciate how much care and thought you are bringing to this but I’m not sure I can give you what you want. The timeline of pertinent events in Edwin Edwards’ case is in his appeal documents that we linked in the original post. Many of the other events alleged by Perdigao, if they even occurred, occurred at dates and places that are not clear and I’m not going to guess.

    However, I hope this will help:

    There is only one US Attorney’s office in this discussion and that is the US Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana whose offices are in New Orleans. We referred to it as the US Attorney’s office, the US Attorney’s office in New Orleans, and the US Attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Louisiana, but they are all the same.

    Eddie Jordan held the position of U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana until sometime in 2001 when he was replaced by his first assistant, Jim Letten, who still serves in that position. Jim Letten was listed as the lead prosecutor in the Edwards’ case when he was first assistant.

    The U.S. Attorney’s office has many Assistant US Attorneys, one of whom was/is Fred Harper. Different AUSAs have been named in the prosecutions involved here, and more have undoubtedly worked on the various cases. The AUSAs named in each case can be determined by looking at the electronic court database known as PACER but I don’t have access to PACER as a blogger. However, the media has reported on the various AUSAs, including Fred Harper’s position in the Criminal Division.

    DRJ (a431ca)

  3. *Get* access to PACER as a blogger.

    Just get a new account.

    I have one. It’s personal and totally legit.

    Patterico (4bda0b)


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