Pierson: Letten and crew always thought they were above the law
Many across southeast Louisiana were surprised and saddened last week by the resignation of Jim Letten, who announced he was stepping down after 12 years as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District because of a scandal involving his top aides. One person not shedding a tear is local attorney Mary Olive Pierson, who has faced off against Letten and his prosecutors in several high-profile cases, most notably the gambling corruption trial of former Gov. Edwin Edwards and four others in 2000. The outspoken Pierson tells Daily Report she wasn't at all surprised by the turn of events in the U.S. Attorney's office. "Jim Letten and his crew have been behaving this way the entire time they have been in office. … They're just now getting caught," she says. "They were always above the law in their own mind." Pierson says the scandal, which involves anonymous blog posts about an ongoing investigation that two top prosecutors under Letten made on nola.com—and the ensuing cover up—calls into question "every conviction that office got." She even goes so far as to suggest Letten, who has been rumored to be joining Kean Miller's New Orleans office, could be disbarred. "That's ridiculous," counters Dane Ciolino, a professor at Loyola University New Orleans' College of Law, who concedes the scandal could mean the courts will have to revisit some cases tried during the Letten administration. "I think it is fair to say it will give defense lawyers in some cases an argument, but an argument does not necessarily mean results." —Stephanie Riegel
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