Here is what I know about our U.S. Attorney Jim Letten. He is the most popular guy in town. More importantly, a lot of people's hope for the future of the region depends on him. Each year, when New Orleans Magazine conducts its reader's surveys, we learn that he is the one public official who most people believe can root out corruption and give the area a decent reputation.

What has happened to his office lately is disheartening. Sal Perricone has admitted that he was wrong when he became an outspoken web commentator using a pseudonym. Former First Assistant Jan Mann conceded the same. People feeling empowered by the web and writing dumb things is hardly unique. What Perrricone and Mann did was not good form and may have endangered some cases, but it was not illegal.


Of much more concern are those who HAVE committed crimes. I do not know if Fred Hebee, who outed Perricone and Mann as being the sources of critical web comments, is one of them. Though he has been investigated, he has not been indicted. However, even beyond the feds' probing, there are enough other entanglements, conflicts of interest and lawsuits over the River Birch landfill to suggest that something happened that needs examination, even if only to get the record straight.


What would be tragic though is if all this brings down Letten. There are some people who would like that to happen, either for their own protection or for their own power grab. Fortunately, the state's two senators, Mary Landrieu and David Vitter, have been staunch supporters of Letten. (Landrieu being a Democrat is especially important to advising the President.) Both senators last week expressed concern about what has happened in the U.S. Attorney's office. I am concerned too, but that does not mean Letten should fall. Indeed, more than anything, he needs a boost of public support.


As for River Birch, I hope that in the end, the truth, whatever it is, wins out and that justice is done. Certainly people with nothing to hide would not want to prevent that from happening. 




Krewe: The Early New Orleans Carnival-Comus to Zulu by Errol Laborde is available at all area bookstores. Books can also be ordered via email at or (504- 895-2266)