Monday, March 31, 2014

"Open secret"

It sure seems like it's taken a while to crack the open secret all the way open but better late than never.
As a defense attorney, Gibbens served on the team representing Fred Heebe, co-owner of landfill company River Birch Inc., as federal officials began to probe allegations that Heebe had bribed officials for preferential treatment.

By then, the fact that at least one federal prosecutor was using Nola.com comments to weigh in on cases had been an open secret in New Orleans’ clubby legal community for years. It was a secret that Gibbens and co-counsel Kyle Schonekas would use to explosive effect in a defamation suit when they — with the help of a former FBI profiler — identified Assistant U.S. Attorney Sal Perricone as the author of 595 comments posted on Nola.com under the handle “Henry L. Mencken1951.”
The moment Heebe trotted out his forensic divination charlatan guy two years ago, many readers immediately suspected Perricone was more likely to have been outed by the grapevine.  All of these people know each other. Heebe, himself, was almost nominated to be US Attorney once. The whole thing is one big "clubby" inside game.

And remember we still don't know all of the identities of the prosecutors who took part in what increasingly looks like a coordinated public propaganda campaign.  We don't know how high up it went. Some have suggested that one of the remaining suspicious comments handles belonged to Jim Letten himself.  It's also possible that one or more participants in or people with knowledge of the scheme are still on staff at the US Attorney's office.  At a recent appearance, the new boss Ken Polite said that "he spends an inexcusably inordinate amount of time dealing with internal personnel issues."

As for this Gibbens character, it's difficult not to admire him a little bit.  Sure some crooks may get off the hook thanks to his efforts.  But not all crooks are created equal.  Justice in the Danziger case would be worth twenty Ray Nagins walking free, for example.  All of that notwithstanding, it seems appropriate that someone stand up to the haughty bullying, public grandstanding, and sockpuppet propagandizing Jim Letten and his deputies disgraced his office with.

The issues all of this raises for the press are serious, though.  And I don't mean to give the principles at issue short shrift.  But, in practice,  it's not entirely clear that they don't deserve a bit of comeuppance themselves for the role they've played at times. But that's pretty much an open secret too.

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