by Clancy DuBos
Local criminal defense attorneys were among the favorite online targets of former Assistant U.S. Attorney Sal Perricone, who posted anonymous rants at nola.com under the moniker Henry L. Mencken1951 and probably several other noms de plume. Last week, one of them decided to answer Perricone in kind — but not anonymously.
Pat Fanning, a former prosecutor who years ago began a criminal defense practice, sent a letter to Deputy Attorney General James Cole and included a copy of one of Perricone’s posts in which he refers to Fanning as “an idiot and an ***hole.” Fanning notes in the letter (a copy of which he gave to Gambit) that he considered suing Perricone for defamation but decided against it because, “while I was able to find a friend or two willing to testify that I am not an idiot, I couldn’t find anyone, not even my wife, to say that I am not an ***hole.”
Fanning goes on to recount that he was once prosecuted by the feds and acquitted — a fact that Perricone noted in one of his anonymous posts. In that post, Perricone says that “if it wasn’t for incompetent prosecutors” Fanning would have been convicted. That’s a tad ironic (and typical of Perricone, it seems) — because it was Cole, the now-deputy attorney general, who prosecuted Fanning in that case. Fanning wryly asserts in his letter to Cole that the reason the government failed to convict him was because it had a bad case, not bad lawyers.
On that note, Fanning closed with a tongue-in-cheek (or not) request of Cole: “I ask that Mr. Perricone be allowed to continue in his employment at the Department of Justice. In fact, I ask that, if at all possible, he be assigned to prosecute all of my clients. This episode tells us that he is not very bright and he has now managed to alienate every judge in the Eastern District of Louisiana. I would be happy to close out my career trying all of my remaining cases against him.”
Unlike Perricone, Fanning signed his real name to the letter.