The tale told by James Perdigao in his racketeering complaint against Adams and Reese is simply amazing. It contains all the elements of a first class political-legal scandal that will make Mississippi’s own Judicial Bribery case look like child’s play. We will update our Perdigao legal page later today with more filings on the criminal side of this case but first we bring you today’s inevitable T-P story on the civil RICO filing. I say inevitable because our post, inspired by a tip from slabbed’s friend Richard Trahant, spread like wildfire in the Louisiana based blogesphere. We welcome all our of our Louisiana friends here, especially those slabbed by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Besides Katrina our states share Mr Perdigao’s former employer Adams and Reese. More on that and detail on the connections to Worldcom later. First today’s report by Gorden Russell.
In a sensational legal filing, a former partner at Adams and Reese who is awaiting trial on charges that he stole $30 million from the firm claims that the firm has had a hand in scandals ranging from the WorldCom stock fraud to the abuse of Louisiana film tax credits.
The lawsuit also claims the New Orleans firm has made a practice of hiring former public officials, including former Jefferson Parish President Tim Coulon and former New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial, and improperly using them to land clients with whom they had dealt as public officials. Coulon and Morial deny the claim.
The 73-page civil racketeering lawsuit reads more like a legal thriller than a court filing. It portrays accused thief Jamie Perdigao as a hard worker who was trying to stay within ethical boundaries while senior members of the firm pressured him into bending the rules to make money.
The suit does not make clear whether Perdigao has evidence to support his allegations.
The law firm called the suit “the latest episode in Perdigao’s continuing fantasy of blaming the government and our firm for his wrongdoing and lashing out at those who are holding him accountable for his actions.”
The suit, filed in federal court Tuesday by lawyers Robert Matthews and Pauline Warriner, repeats some allegations Perdigao made in a recent motion in his criminal case. In that filing, Perdigao claimed he provided a series of explosive leads to U.S. Attorney Jim Letten’s office that were not pursued because the leads implicated certain prosecutors and shed unflattering light on the conviction of former Gov. Edwin Edwards.
Letten’s office said Perdigao offered no evidence to support his contention that the Edwards case’s star witness Bobby Guidry — a former Perdigao client — bribed a prosecutor and sought to bribe then-U.S. Attorney Eddie Jordan. Jordan strongly denies the allegation.
To avoid any conflict, Letten said Perdigao’s allegations were forwarded to the U.S. Justice Department to investigate.
Perdigao has asked U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon to recuse Letten’s office from his criminal case because of alleged bias. Fallon is mulling an evidentiary hearing on Perdigao’s request; on Wednesday, Perdigao’s lawyer in the criminal case, William Wessel, filed a motion listing the witnesses he intends to call.
The new lawsuit casts aspersions on the law firm’s relationships with a number of politicians, many hired shortly after they left office
The suit claims Adams and Reese hired Morial to woo clients with business before the city. Though there was a theoretical “Chinese wall” to prevent Morial from dealing with the city and its vendors — to avoid violating state ethics laws — the suit claims it was ignored.
In fact, it says, many companies who had received or were seeking city contracts while Morial was mayor then retained him, or the firm, during his tenure at Adams and Reese.
Later, when federal authorities subpoenaed Morial’s billing records as part of a sprawling probe, the law firm obstructed justice by leaving key information out of its responses and turning in some records that had been “modified,” the suit claims.
Morial’s lawyer, Pat Fanning, said that Morial “didn’t handle cases with Jamie Perdigao. He never met the man in his life. I can’t imagine how Jamie Perdigao can be commenting on how Marc conducted his business at Adams and Reese.”
The firm sought a similar arrangement with Coulon after he left the presidency of Jefferson Parish, the suit says. As with Morial, the suit claims the firm saw the politician as a vehicle for currying favor with Jefferson Parish and contractors who worked with the parish.
“Almost immediately upon Tim Coulon’s arrival at the firm in 2004, he began violating the state’s anti-corruption statute and his contract with the firm by assisting firm clients with transactions and other matters before Jefferson Parish,” the suit says.
Coulon strongly denied the charge and called the lawsuit a “sign of a desperate man.”
At various points, according to the suit, Perdigao complained to firm managers about ethically dubious practices in which members were engaged. In nearly every case, he was told to look the other way, the suit says.
Update: There is a breaking news story on the T-P which is mostly similar to the article I linked above except it contains links to PDF’s of yesterday’s filings including Mr Perdigao’s witness list in his criminal case. We have updated our Perdigao legal page to include several filings including the witness list which contains more bombshells such as these:
Messrs. Letten and Harper led the prosecution team against Edwards. In addition, AUSAs Jim Mann and Sal Perricone were also heavily involved in the investigation and prosecution of Edwards. As a result of the Edwards conviction, the U.S. Attorney’s office received substantial public praise. That success, together with the endorsement of the only metropolitan newspaper in New Orleans, catapulted Eddie Jordan into the elected position of District Attorney of New Orleans and landed Mr. Letten, with the help of Congressman David Vitter and Adams and Reese, into the position of acting, and then, fully appointed U.S. Attorney.
In addition, Edwards’ co-defendant-conspirator Robert Guidry was able to escape forfeiture to the State of over $107 million in profits from the sale of the Casino and license (for which he bribed Edwards to obtain) through the testimony of Messrs. Letten and Mr. Harper. That testimony boiled down to the U.S. Attorney orally (and not publicly) granting civil immunity to Guidry in addition to criminal immunity, even though the plea agreement made no reference to civil immunity. Moreover, even though the defendant gave the U.S. Attorney chapter and verse on how Guidry lied and perjured himself in his post plea, pre-sentence investigation as to his finances, nothing was ever done by the U.S. Attorney’s office. Not only was there no follow up, but the information defendant was providing to the government was being leaked to Guidry, the subject of defendant’s debriefing. The leaks were accompanied by threats to the defendant’s safety, and despite his cooperation with the government, no action was taken to investigate the threats. This history compels the conclusion that the U.S. Attorney’s office would do anything to protect the Edwards conviction and, therefore, could not possibly be fair to the defendant.
Furthermore, the fact that defendant reported to DOJ that AUSA Harper acquired property with one of Guidry’s lawyers while the Edwards case was proceeding through the federal courts, while the Brady material produced by the defendant to the U.S. Attorney was withheld from Edwards and his counsel, lends further credence to the notion that the U.S. Attorney’s office would want to retaliate against defendant to silence him. The bias reflected by the top management of the office towards defendant was further evidenced when the government brought a superceding indictment to include a forfeiture of additional monies not the subject of the original indictment immediately after defendant raised his first affirmative defense even though no new information had become available to the government.
The very tenor of the U.S. Attorney’s vitriolic response to the Motion for Recusal further compels the conclusion that it would be unrealistic to expect that defendant could receive fair treatment, free of bias and retaliatory action by this office.
Finally, the unanticipated and abrupt cutting off of debriefing of the defendant after roughly two years of extensive cooperation, with no warning to defendant or his counsel, with no notice of deficiency in the nature of the material furnished or criticism of the defendant’s honesty or candor, but, on the contrary, with a lack of interest, concern, candor and carry-through by the U.S. Attorney’s office, came directly on the heels of defendant questioning the lack of follow-up on the Guidry information. These actions, coupled with the U.S. Attorney and DOJ entering into a consent recusal of the office in the Edwards matter only after notice was given by defendant to the DOJ that that prosecution was permeated with failure to provide Brady information to Edwards, leads to the inescapable conclusion that the office would be biased against the defendant.
In addition, the position of the U.S. Attorney’s office that it hated to make Adams and Reese or the Casinos victims in an indictment (but would do so) and the revelation of defendant’s personal income tax return information to Adams and Reese managerial personnel prior to defendant’s indictment, when Adams and Reese could not possibly be involved as victim or witness, compels the conclusion that there is something amiss and takes this case out of the realm of fairness and objectivity, and forces the conclusion that the office could never fulfill its mandate to do justice and to be fair and impartial.