- Associated Press - Thursday, December 6, 2012

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — U.S. Attorney Jim Letten, whose successful prosecution of a former Louisiana governor and numerous other public officials won him bipartisan praise for more than a decade, resigned Thursday while the Justice Department investigates alleged misconduct by his top deputies.

Mr. Letten’s announcement was an abrupt end to his tenure as the nation’s longest-serving U.S. attorney. His crusade against crime resulted in convictions of corrupt judges, killer police officers, bribe-taking officials in New Orleans’ long-troubled school system, and scammers who tried to rip off Hurricane Katrina aid programs. He first won fame as an assistant U.S. attorney leading the successful 2000 racketeering prosecution of former Gov. Edwin Edwards.

Mr. Letten didn’t address the allegations against his deputies during a news conference Thursday. He previously said that he had no idea what his deputies were doing until the online activity was revealed in court filings.

He said the decision to resign, effective Dec. 11, came after discussions with colleagues, Justice Department officials and his family.

“The decision ultimately was mine,” Mr. Letten said.

Dana Boente, the first assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, was appointed in the interim.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said in a statement that Mr. Letten has been a “valued partner, dedicated public servant and a good friend.”

Mr. Letten didn’t take any questions from reporters before he left the room, kissing his wife and hugging tearful colleagues on his way out.

His success made him one of the city’s most popular public figures, but his support among political officials in both parties diminished after revelations about the online activities of two veteran prosecutors in his office.

One, Sal Perricone, resigned in March after acknowledging he criticized judges and politicians and commented on cases in anonymous posts on a local newspaper’s website. Mr. Letten demoted his top assistant, Jan Mann, last month after she also confessed to posting anonymous comments on the same site.

The Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility is investigating the matter.

The authors of the posts were unmasked in court filings by attorneys for New Orleans businessman Fred Heebe, whose landfill operations are the subject of a federal probe.

Mr. Letten has said he didn’t know about Mr. Perricone’s and Ms. Mann’s online posts until after Mr. Heebe’s court filings.

Mr. Heebe was nominated by then-President George W. Bush as U.S. attorney in November 2001 but withdrew amid allegations that he had abused an ex-girlfriend and his ex-wife — allegations that he denied.

Mr. Letten was the acting U.S. attorney at the time. He held onto the post through the Bush years and was kept in what is often a political patronage position by President Obama.

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