Federal Prosecutor Loses Job, May Face Lawsuit Over Obnoxious Online Comments

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Sept. 6 2012 10:00 AM

Federal Prosecutor Loses Job, Faces Lawsuits Over Obnoxious Online Comments

1346940015967
A sample of online comments by "Henry L. Mencken1951."

Screenshot / NOLA.com

Not content to go after suspected wrongdoers in court, a Louisiana federal prosecutor apparently spent years attacking them in the comments section of the local newspaper's website as well. His online barbs, posted under pseudonyms such as "Henry L. Mencken1951," "legacyusa," and "dramatis personae," were meant to be anonymous. Instead, they have cost him his job and made him the target of at least one defamation lawsuit.

According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the owner of a landfill that is the target of a federal probe got so fed up with Mencken1951's comments on NOLA.com articles about him that he hired the famous forensic linguist James Fitzgerald to unmask the troll. Fitzgerald compared the comments to a legal brief by then-Assistant U.S. Attorney Sal Perricone, and found striking similarities, including the use of obscure words such as "dubiety" and "redoubt." Perricone eventually fessed up and stepped down from his position, and he now faces a defamation lawsuit from the landfill owner, Fred Heebe.

Advertisement

A sample comment about Heebe from 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… ." Letten refers to Perricone's boss, U.S. Attorney James Letten.

Now the saga has apparently inspired another embattled local figure to lash out against his online tormentors. Yesterday the Times-Picayune reported that an indicted parish president has filed a defamation lawsuit against a NOLA.com commenter who goes by the name "campstblue." The suspected culprit? None other than Perricone, who, if the allegations are correct, also took potshots at a deputy U.S. attorney general who might end up having a say in deciding whether Perricone gets censured for his conduct. 

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.

TODAY IN SLATE

Jurisprudence

Scalia’s Liberal Streak

The conservative justice’s most brilliant—and surprisingly progressive—moments on the bench.

Colorado Is Ground Zero for the Fight Over Female Voters

There’s a Way to Keep Ex-Cons Out of Prison That Pays for Itself. Why Don’t More States Use It?

The NFL Explains How It Sees “the Role of the Female”

The Music Industry Is Ignoring Some of the Best Black Women Singing R&B

Culturebox

Theo’s Joint and Vanessa’s Whiskey

No sitcom did the “Very Special Episode” as well as The Cosby Show.

Television

The Other Huxtable Effect

Thirty years ago, The Cosby Show gave us one of TV’s great feminists.

Cliff Huxtable Explains the World: Five Lessons From TV’s Greatest Dad

Why Television Needs a New Cosby Show Right Now

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 18 2014 8:20 PM A Clever Attempt at Explaining Away a Vote Against the Farm Bill
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 18 2014 6:02 PM A Chinese Company Just Announced the Biggest IPO in U.S. History
  Life
The Slate Quiz
Sept. 18 2014 11:44 PM Play the Slate News Quiz With Jeopardy! superchampion Ken Jennings.
  Double X
Doublex
Sept. 18 2014 8:07 PM Crying Rape False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 18 2014 1:23 PM “It’s Not Every Day That You Can Beat the World Champion” An exclusive interview with chess grandmaster Fabiano Caruana.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 18 2014 4:33 PM The Top 5 Dadsplaining Moments From The Cosby Show
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 18 2014 6:48 PM By 2100 the World's Population Could Be 11 Billion
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 18 2014 3:35 PM Do People Still Die of Rabies? And how do you know if an animal is rabid?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.