The Associated Press
NEW ORLEANS —
A federal magistrate refused Tuesday to order prosecutors to provide former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin with a copy of a sealed report on alleged prosecutorial misconduct before his trial on bribery charges.
U.S. Magistrate Alma Chasez said in her order that Nagin doesn’t need the report that federal prosecutor John Horn prepared in a separate case to defend himself at trial.
Nagin’s lawyer, Robert Jenkins, argued that it wouldn’t be fair to try his client without more information about Horn’s probe of anonymous online comments posted by at least three federal prosecutors.
Nagin was the subject of anonymous posts by prosecutor Sal Perricone, who was a top deputy to former U.S. Attorney Jim Letten. Perricone resigned after acknowledging his online activities, which also led to Letten’s resignation.
Nagin’s trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 28.
During a hearing Monday, Chasez told Jenkins he hadn’t cited any precedents for her to order prosecutors to share any of the material he is seeking.
Last month, U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt cited evidence of “grotesque” prosecutorial misconduct in ordering a new trial for five former New Orleans police officers convicted of civil rights violations stemming from deadly shootings on a bridge following Hurricane Katrina.
Engelhardt said at least three government attorneys, including Perricone, posted anonymous comments on The Times-Picayune’s companion website and created a “carnival atmosphere” that perverted justice in the case.
Chasez said none of the government lawyers in question were involved in presenting the case against Nagin to a grand jury. Thoroughly questioning the pool of prospective jurors will insure that they haven’t been influenced by the inappropriate blogging activities, the magistrate said.
Nagin pleaded not guilty in February to charges he accepted bribes, free trips and other gratuities from contractors in exchange for helping them secure millions of dollars in city work. His indictment was the product of a City Hall corruption investigation that already has resulted in guilty pleas by two former city officials and two businessmen and a prison sentence for a former city vendor.