I’ve previously written about the case of Arkansas Judge Michael Maggio, who was found to have made anonymous online comments about cases he was presiding over. When I first saw the headline “Ex-Prosecutor Blames Drug in Posting Scandal,” I thought I was looking at a story of the Maggio case.
This is an entirely different instance that deals with the latest developments in the case former Federal prosecutor Sal Perricone. In 2013, Perricone was accused of being an online commenter on NOLA.com postings. In those postings, “Henry L. Mencken1951” would attack the targets of federal investigations. No one paid much attention to the posts, until an internal investigation revealed that Perricone was, in fact, Henry L. Mencken1951. As a result of that allegation, among others, a U.S. District judge ordered a new trial for five New Orleans police officers who were involved in a police shooting, and subsequent cover-up, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Further investigation revealed that a second prosecutor in the office, Jan Mann, was also the author of online comments.
An order signed by a U.S. District Judge revoked the right of Perricone and Mann to practice in Louisiana’s Middle District. Mann has also been barred from appearing in front of the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Both may still practice law elsewhere, barring further disciplinary action.
All of this brings us to today. While Jan Mann has not (as of yet) appealed the ban that stops her from practicing law in Louisiana’s Middle District, Sal Perricone has. He essentially makes two arguments:
- He cannot remember making the online comments because of a prescription drug he was taking for sleep: “As embarrassing as it is, I do not remember making many of the comments ascribed to me. The effects of the drug I was taking (seem) to have had a somnambulant effect on me.”
- He thought, at the time, that the comments he was making were protected by the first amendment.
I am not a lawyer, so I cannot comment on whether or not the arguments Perricone makes will hold water. I will say, however, that the comments were sheer idiocy. Regardless of their legality, they have certainly destroyed Perricone’s career, by his own admission:
My career was shattered, and my life changed. Today, I’m trying to rebuild my life.
The lesson? Anonymous comments are just never worth it.