U.S. Attorney Jim Letten's office has announced that it will recuse itself, at the request of the U.S. Department of Justice, from all matters pertaining to the River Birch landfill company — including the case against Henry Mouton, the former state wildlife commissioner who last year pleaded guilty to taking bribes in exchange for publicly disparaging two other landfills — as well as unrelated cases against River Birch CFO Dominick Fazzio and Mark Titus, Fazzio's brother-in-law.
Letten's office would not confirm the reason for the recusal. However, former Assistant U.S. Attorney Sal Perricone — who worked on the Fazzio case — recently admitted to posting negative comments about River Birch owner Fred Heebe and Fazzio on Nola.com, using the handle Henry L Mencken1951.
On March 12, Heebe filed a defamation suit against "Mencken," prompting Perricone's admission and, later, resignation. The suit, originally filed in Orleans Parish Civil District Court, has been removed to U.S. District Court.
Read Letten's press release on the recusals:
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - Today, Jim Letten, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana, made the following statement upon receiving confirmation by the United States Department of Justice of the recusal of the United States Attorney’s Office from handling certain matters:
“Following consultation with the Department of Justice in Washington, DC, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana determined that it would be appropriate to request recusal in any matters involving River Birch, and also in the cases involving U.S. v. Titus, U.S. v. Mouton, and U.S. v. Fazzio. Recusal is a time-tested practice to avoid even the appearance or allegation of a conflict of interest in the investigation and prosecution of cases and in this case is not an indication of any impropriety or misconduct on the part of the United States Attorney’s Office.”
These matters will continue to be handled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Legal action will be handled by the Public Integrity Section of the Criminal Division of the United States Department of Justice.
The Department of Justice has allowed Assistant United States Attorney Greg Kennedy to continue to be assigned to the matter under the supervision of the Public Integrity Section (PIN). AUSA Kennedy will report directly and only to PIN for purposes of these cases."
Because the office has now been recused, we will have no further comment on this matter.