Abruptly ending an 11-year run highlighted by the convictions of more than a dozen crooked politicians, New Orleans U.S. Attorney Jim Letten quit amid what the New Orleans Times-Picayune calls a metastasizing scandal in his office that started with prosecutors posting anonymous screeds on NOLA.com. Letten was the nation’s longest-serving U.S. attorney, having been kept in the job by President Barack Obama despite his Republican affiliation.
Ironically, his fall was engineered by Fred Heebe, the landfill magnate who very nearly became U.S. attorney himself after George W. Bush was elected president — and then, years later, found himself a target of the office. While it was Heebe’s filing of a defamation lawsuit that set Letten’s downfall in motion, he was finally done in by the failure of his most trusted lieutenant — First Assistant U.S. Attorney Jan Mann — to admit that she, too, had been posting vituperative online comments about federal targets. In an emotional and strident 11-minute speech, Letten said his resignation would be effective Tuesday, but that he would stay on for a “very, very short time” to aid in the transition. He spoke of his pride in having served as the region’s top federal law enforcement officer for more than a decade.