A bid by former city official Stacey Jackson to have the corruption case against her thrown out because of alleged misconduct by federal prosecutors was denied Friday by a federal judge, setting the stage for a July trial on charges that Jackson squeezed kickbacks from contractors she hired to remediate blighted houses after Hurricane Katrina.
For months, Jackson, the former director of the quasi-city agency New Orleans Affordable Homeownership, has sought to make hay from the online-commenting scandal that enveloped the U.S. Attorney’s Office in 2012.
She first argued that a racially offensive comment that former Assistant U.S. Attorney Sal Perricone, using an alias, posted underneath a story about her was evidence of the office’s bias, especially when considered along with other racially charged comments he made about other public officials accused of corruption.
She then sought to prove that Perricone was not the only federal law enforcement official commenting on stories about her, and she persuaded U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph Wilkinson to allow her to subpoena information about two other pseudonymous commenters, “aircheck” and “jammer1954.”
But that initial victory didn’t take her far: Wilkinson determined that “jammer1954” was, in fact, a private citizen, not a federal prosecutor, and he later ruled with U.S. District Court Judge Mary Ann Vial Lemmon that the identity of “aircheck” was impossible to determine and declined to issue additional subpoenas.
Friday’s ruling by Lemmon said Jackson offered three basic arguments for dismissal of her indictment: that grand jury secrecy had been violated, that the will of the grand jury had been “overborne” by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and that she was the victim of selective prosecution based on her race.
None was supported by the evidence, Lemmon found.
She said news articles in 2008 reporting that a grand jury was meeting to investigate Jackson attributed that information to the City Council, rather than leaks from prosecutors or unnamed sources.
With regard to the argument that a rogue prosecutor had “overborne” the grand jury, Lemmon noted that Jackson’s case was heard by a total of six grand juries and Perricone was not the prosecutor who appeared before any of them. When the indictment against Jackson was returned in 2013, Perricone had been gone from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for more than a year and his comment about Jackson had been posted almost five years earlier.
The judge also found that Jackson failed to prove she was singled out for prosecution because she is black, noting that the U.S. Attorney’s Office in recent years has prosecuted many high-profile white defendants, such as former Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard.
Jackson’s trial, which had been delayed amid the flurry of motions about the commenting scandal, is scheduled to start July 21.