When Jim Letten was the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana for more than a decade, he achieved status as a local hero for having prosecuted a large number of corrupt politicians in New Orleans.
But Letten’s career ended in rather ignominious fashion, when it was discovered that prosecutors on his staff had taken to the comment section of New Orleans Times-Picayune articles to trash their investigative targets, sometimes with information that was not public. He ultimately resigned his post as a result, and eventually surfaced as an assistant dean at the Tulane University law school.
And that’s where one of Letten’s prosecutorial ghosts returned to haunt him earlier this month.
The ghost in question was conservative filmmaker James O’Keefe, who in 2010 had his life turned upside down by Letten’s office for a video stunt gone wrong. O’Keefe had planned a takedown of Mary Landrieu of sorts as a response to her office’s refusal to answer phone calls from angry constituents following her Obamacare vote; he was camped out in her office with a cell phone camera, and two of his confederates entered dressed as telephone repairmen in pursuit of a gag whereby they’d be checked Landrieu’s phones in a “wonder why nobody can get through to you guys” fashion.
But Landrieu’s staffers called the U.S. marshalls on the group, and they were all arrested.
And in the process of that arrest, the video files of the gag that had been recorded were destroyed, preventing O’Keefe and his people from mounting a defense to the charges ultimately filed against him or the allegations made by Letten’s office that he had attempted to bug her phones.
The upshot was that O’Keefe spent a couple of years on federal probation for the stunt. But now he’s a free man again, and moving about the country.
And earlier this month he made his way down to New Orleans, among other things to pay a visit to Letten. And rather than act graciously when confronted, the former U.S. Attorney made an absolute jerk of himself.
There’s a way to handle these things. You give a guy like O’Keefe a few minutes of your time and you calmly explain why you did what you did. Then you shrug your shoulders and you leave. That way O’Keefe doesn’t have much to work with and he can’t make a video which savages your image as a good guy who did a lot for New Orleans.
This makes Letten a jerk. Coupled with the events surrounding his demise as U.S. Attorney, he’s now an unfortunate figure even with his work in taking out Dollar Bill Jefferson, Aaron Broussard and the rest.