Court rejects ex-official's appeal based on misconduct in federal prosecutors' posting scandal



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NEW ORLEANS — A federal appeals court rejected a former New Orleans-area official's claim that his guilty plea to corruption charges in 2012 deserves another look because of an online posting scandal that disrupted the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Orleans.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the appeal of former Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard on Wednesday, only a day after a three-judge panel heard arguments.

Broussard pleaded guilty in 2012 in a federal payroll fraud and bribery case. The appeal was based on the claim that when Broussard entered his plea he didn't know the extent of a scandal involving anonymous online postings by two prosecutors.

On appeal, Broussard argued that such knowledge might have affected the plea bargain. Because the information was kept from Broussard's attorney at the time of the plea bargain, Broussard was, in effect, denied effective counsel, the appeal said.

The appeal was rejected in a brief, unsigned opinion that said Broussard's current attorney, Arthur "Buddy" Lemann, failed to make the case that government interference denied Broussard effective counsel.

Broussard was sentenced to 46 months and is due for release in September 2016. Lemann had hoped to persuade the 5th Circuit panel to order a district judge to hold an evidentiary hearing on issues involving the online postings and alleged leaks about the investigation.

The case involves comments by former assistant U.S. attorneys Sal Perricone and Jan Mann, who were revealed to be anonymous posters on Nola.com, the site of The Times-Picayune.

Perricone and Mann both left the U.S. Attorney's Office in 2012. Their boss at the time, Jim Letten, who rose to prominence by successfully prosecuting former Gov. Edwin Edwards and other public officials, also resigned. He was never accused of making online postings.

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