Crusading New Orleans Prosecutor To Quit, Facing Staff Misconduct

Source: Campbell Robertson / The New York Times

NEW ORLEANS — Once again, as he has for over a decade, Jim Letten, the chief federal prosecutor here, appeared before reporters, just as he regularly has to announce that some suspiciously well-connected city contractor was facing a lengthy spell behind bars. But this time was different.

In a brief but passionate statement, Mr. Letten, the longest-serving United States attorney in the nation and a popular crusader against the crooked traditions of Louisiana public servants, announced that he would be resigning effective next Tuesday.

He said it was his decision and gave few other details, but everyone knew why this was happening. Beginning last spring, a series of legal motions had revealed that Mr. Letten’s senior prosecutors had been making provocative, even pugnacious comments about active criminal matters and other subjects under aliases, the Web site of The Times-Picayune newspaper.

For a team of prosecutors once referred to in the news media as the Untouchables, with a chief who had drawn broad enough popularity that he had survived a party change in the White House, the exposures were stunning.

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