- Associated Press - Saturday, May 24, 2014

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A federal judge has denied a request to dismiss charges against the former director of a nonprofit housing agency who’s accused of taking kickbacks from contractors.

U.S. District Judge Mary Ann Vial Lemmon rejected arguments to dismiss the case against Stacey Jackson, who was indicted last year on federal charges connected to her position at New Orleans Affordable Housing.

Jackson’s lawyer, Edward Castaing, had argued for dismissal because of once-anonymous remarks by former Assistant U.S. Attorney Sal Perricone. He resigned in 2012 after news surfaced of his online posts under a variety of names.

The remarks on NOLA.com, the website of The Times-Picayune, date back to 2008 when news broke of the investigation of Jackson and the housing agency that worked with then-Mayor Ray Nagin’s administration.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Fred Harper argued that Perricone was not part of the team that prosecuted Jackson, and that there is no evidence that the remarks influenced - or were ever seen by - members of the grand jury that indicted Jackson more than a year after Perricone resigned.

On Friday, Lemmon wrote because there was no evidence that prosecutors’ “online comments violated grand jury secrecy requirements, amounted to prosecutorial misconduct that overbore the will of the grand jury or caused selective prosecution based on race, the court cannot find that a combination of these three items resulted in a violation of defendant’s due process rights.”

Jackson is set for trial on July 21.

The agency Jackson headed, commonly called NOAH, was to provide federally financed house-gutting services after Hurricane Katrina, but news reports in 2008 showed that the work was never completed. The scandal became a major embarrassment for Nagin, who left office in 2010. Nagin earlier this year was convicted of corruption involving other matters.

Jackson’s case is one of several federal criminal cases in which the online comments of prosecutors have come into play.

The most sensational involved the 2011 convictions of five police officers connected to deadly shootings of unarmed civilians in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt overturned the convictions, ruling that the case had been tainted by “grotesque prosecutorial misconduct” by at least three government attorneys who posted anonymous online comments. Prosecutors have appealed that ruling while the officers await a new trial.

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