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In re Perricone

Supreme Court of Louisiana

December 5, 2018

IN RE: SALVADOR R. PERRICONE

          ATTORNEY DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDING

          PER CURIAM. [*]

         This disciplinary matter arises from formal charges filed by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel ("ODC") against respondent, Salvador R. Perricone, an attorney licensed to practice law in Louisiana.

         UNDERLYING FACTS

         The underlying facts of this case are largely undisputed. By way of background, respondent commenced employment as an Assistant United States Attorney ("AUSA") with the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana ("USAO") in 1991. At all times relevant to these proceedings, respondent was a Senior Litigation Counsel and the USAO's training officer.

         During the times pertinent to these proceedings, a New Orleans newspaper, The Times-Picayune, maintained an Internet website identified as nola.com. The website typically permitted readers to post comments to news stories using pseudonyms and/or anonymous identities.

         Beginning in or around November 2007 and continuing through March 14, 2012, respondent was a frequent poster of comments on a myriad of subjects on nola.com, [1] including comments on cases which he and/or his colleagues at the USAO were assigned to prosecute. Of the more than 2, 600 comments respondent posted, between one hundred and two hundred - less than one percent - related to matters being prosecuted in the USAO. None of the comments identified respondent by name or as an employee of the USAO. Rather, respondent posted on nola.com using at least five online identities: "campstblue," "legacyusa," "dramatis personae," "Henry L. Mencken1951," and "fed up."

         Count I

         In 2009, the FBI and the USAO commenced an investigation into allegations of corruption against various Jefferson Parish officials. In particular, investigations included allegations involving improper health insurance contracts between government entities and/or contractors and an insurance company owned by Tim Whitmer, the Jefferson Parish Chief Administrative Officer. Among the insurance contracts under investigation was one with River Birch, Inc., a privately held landfill company owned by Fred Heebe, whose company had been awarded a $160 million landfill contract with Jefferson Parish.

         In February 2011, a federal grand jury indicted Henry Mouton, a former member of the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission. The indictment charged that "co-conspirator A" paid Mr. Mouton more than $400, 000 to use his influence with the Commission to force the closure of the Old Gentilly Landfill, which competed with River Birch. In June 2011, Mr. Mouton pleaded guilty to conspiracy.

         An additional investigation alleged embezzlement by Dominick Fazzio, the chief financial officer for River Birch, and his brother-in-law, Mark Titus. Mr. Titus pleaded guilty and cooperated in the subsequent indictment of Mr. Fazzio for fraud and money laundering. Respondent was not on the prosecution team in that case, which was assigned to United States District Judge Ginger Berrigan in the Eastern District, but he did enroll for the limited purpose of disqualifying attorney Stephen London as Mr. Fazzio's trial counsel.

         During the pendency of these investigations and prosecutions, respondent began commenting on nola.com using the pseudonym "Henry L. Mencken1951":

If Heebe had one firing synapse, he would go speak to Letten's posse and purge himself of this sordid episode and let them go after the council and public officials. Why prolong this pain...perhaps Queen Jennifer has something to say about that.[2] -December 18, 2011, 10:21 a.m.
Heebe comes from a long line of corruptors. -September 3, 2011, 10:55 a.m.
Heebe's goose is cooked. -September 4, 2011, 10:45 a.m.

         As regards a nola.com story announcing the indictment of Mr. Mouton, respondent commented using his pseudonym "legacyusa," writing:

I read the indictment....there is no legitimate reason for this type of behavior in such a short period of time and for a limited purpose. GUILTY!!! -February 26, 2011, 9:16 a.m.

         As regards a nola.com article on the indictment of Mr. Fazzio, respondent posted a comment using his pseudonym "dramatis personae" and wrote:

Well, Mr. Fazzio, I hope you have room in your scrap book for your conviction and mug shot. London didn't too well with Archie Kaufman. You're next.[3] -August 5, 2011, 3:09 p.m.

         Following Judge Berrigan's decision to disqualify Mr. Fazzio's attorney due to a conflict, Mr. Fazzio hired Arthur "Buddy" Lemann as his new attorney, as reported on nola.com. Respondent commented using "Henry L. Mencken1951," writing:

Looks like Fazzio got a lemon. That book you refer to Mr. Rioux is about all of his losses. The guy is a clown and Fazzio is going down. -January 13, 2012, 10:36 p.m.

         In another post following Judge Berrigan's disqualification order, respondent commented as "Henry L. Mencken1951" and wrote:

It's the right decision. Judges don't take this action lightly. There must be something going on we don't know about or the TP is too stupid (more likely) to understand. Please get to the bottom of this, PLEASE!!! -January 5, 2012, 7:36 p.m.

         Radio personality Garland Robinette was featured in an article in The Times-Picayune which reported that Mr. Heebe provided him a $250, 000 interest-free loan allegedly in exchange for Mr. Robinette's on-air opposition to reopening the Old Gentilly Landfill rather than honoring the $160 million River Birch contract. Mr. Robinette had been notified that he was the subject of an investigation by the FBI and the USAO. Using "Henry L. Mencken1951," respondent wrote on nola.com:

Looks like he got another 250K to keep his mouth shut. What a show!! WWL radio is dead!!! -September 6, 2011, 10:13 a.m.
TRANSLATION: Heebe's attorney won't let me talk, lest I implicate his client. Additionally, I am New Orleans Royalty and I don't have to explain anything to anyone. -September 7, 2011, 7:59 a.m.

         Count II

         Respondent prosecuted Mose Jefferson, the brother of Congressman William Jefferson, in a case in which he was indicted for bribing former Orleans Parish School Board president Ellenese Brooks-Simms. During the trial, respondent posted comments on nola.com about Mose Jefferson and his attorney, Mike Fawer, under the pseudonym "campstblue":

Fawer has screwed his client!!!! He revealed exactly what Mose needed on the board to get what Mose wanted. Good job Mike!!!! You're just as arrogant as Ellenese Y and the jury knows it.
-August 15, 2009, 9:19 p.m.
They got the corrupted, now they have to get the corruptor.
-August 16, 2009, 7:41 p.m.

         In a second indictment not personally prosecuted by respondent, Mose Jefferson, his sister Betty Jefferson, and Renee Gill Pratt were charged with sending funds to a Jefferson-controlled non-profit. William Jefferson was then pending trial on corruption charges in Virginia. Using the name "legacyusa," respondent posted:

The sad part of all this is that Bill is preventing his siblings from pleading guilty and cooperating, thus exposing them to more prison time. Additionally, local defense attorneys are just milking these cases for their own ego gratification and financial enrichment. Something is sick about our system. -May 22, 2009, 9:40 p.m.

         Count ...


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