Sources at the federal courthouse told Gambit last week that veteran assistant U.S. Attorneys Jan and Jim Mann will "retire" in the wake of the ongoing controversy over unauthorized online comments by Jan Mann. Both have been under scrutiny — Jan Mann under fire — in connection with the scandal that led to the retirement of U.S. Attorney Jim Letten. Jan Mann was Letten's first assistant until she was outed as a cyber-commenter on NOLA.com. Her husband, Jim Mann, was also a top supervisor in the U.S. Attorney's office.
The Manns' reported retirements were the latest developments in the online ranting saga that began last March when a lawsuit filed by River Birch co-owner Fred Heebe alleged that Sal Perricone, another veteran assistant U.S. Attorney, was posting acerbic comments at Nola.com under the nom de plume Henry L. Mencken 1951 and other aliases. Perricone admitted the allegation and resigned.
Shortly after Perricone resigned, Letten told the press, the public and the courts that Perricone acted alone and no one else in his office was commenting online. Jan Mann, as his top assistant, had been posting online comments, but allegedly stopped when Perricone was busted, according to a separate lawsuit against her by Heebe. She not only stood by silently and allowed Letten to make inaccurate pronouncements about the scope of the online commenting problem, but she also oversaw — via a direct assignment from Letten — what turns out to be a bogus "investigation" of suspected leaks and online comments by Department of Justice personnel in the local DOJ office. To date, no evidence has surfaced that Letten knew about Jan Mann's online comments.
When Jan Mann was identified as online commenter "eweman" in Heebe's latest lawsuit, she initially refused to comment, then admitted she posted comments (but not that she was "eweman") — and then refused to resign despite pressure from all directions on Letten to let her go. Instead, Letten demoted her (she has federal civil service protection, so firing her could have been problematic).
Jim Mann is also a close pal of Perricone and is widely suspected of at least knowing about his wife's online activity. The Manns and Perricone constituted a troika of tough-talking federales who seemed to enjoy not only putting crooks in jail but also engaging in a large dose of hubris in the process. Attorneys generally are barred by ethics rules from commenting on pending cases, and DOJ regulations specifically bar federal prosecutors from saying anything publicly about pending cases.
The DOJ's Office of Professional Responsibility has been charged with investigating the online comments scandal. A new interim U.S. Attorney has been appointed (Dana Boente of the Eastern District of Virginia) to fill Letten's shoes for now, and another federal prosecutor (John Horn from the Northern District of Georgia) has been brought in to re-open Jan Mann's tainted "investigation" into possible leaks from the office.
DOJ officials had no comment on Gambit's report of the Manns' retirements, except to say that the department does not comment on personnel matters. Their departures — whether voluntary or otherwise — are expected to signal the beginning of a long period of "righting the ship" by Boente and his successor, who will be nominated by Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu. — Clancy DuBos