Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office returned fire Wednesday in the case of a young public defender’s investigator who accused the DA this week of maliciously prosecuting her to save face over allegations of prosecutorial misconduct.
Prosecutors argued in a legal filing Wednesday that attorneys for Taryn Blume should be held in contempt of court for revealing the name of a rape victim while pressing to bar the DA and his office from trying Blume on a charge of impersonating a peace officer.
It marked the latest volley in a case that has opened a venomous gash between Cannizzaro’s office and the Public Defender’s Office.
Blume is accused of presenting herself as a DA’s investigator to Housing Authority of New Orleans police as she investigated a rape case last year against Curtis Hawthorne, who was represented by Chief Public Defender Derwyn Bunton’s office.
Her attorneys, Mark Cunningham and Michael Magner, of the Jones Walker firm, filed several documents this week to support their argument that Cannizzaro, his office and one of his top trial deputies, Jason Napoli, should be recused from prosecuting her. They claim Napoli was seeking payback over complaints that he’d tried to hide a report in the rape case.
Among the documents they submitted was an unredacted version of an NOPD report that named the rape victim.
First Assistant District Attorney Graymond Martin and Assistant DA Christopher Bowman seized on that Wednesday, arguing that Cunningham and Magner violated a state law that bars attorneys from publicly disclosing the identities of victims of sex offenses.
“The damage to (the victim’s) reputation and dignity is irreversible,” they argued.
The prosecutors also claim that Blume’s attorneys repeatedly threatened Cannizzaro and other prosecutors with “negative publicity for the office or worse” if the DA didn’t dismiss the case.
Criminal District Court Judge Tracey Flemings-Davillier set a March 11 date to hear the contempt issue.
Blume’s attorneys are now asking the judge to remove the unredacted report and substitute a version with the victim’s name blacked out.
Her identity is no secret; she named herself when she took the stand in a December trial of Hawthorne, who was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Magner said Wednesday that they requested the change out of “an abundance of caution.”
In the meantime, Blume’s attorneys have filed a motion to quash the indictment against her, arguing that it fails to allege a specific intent to defraud, as the law requires.
In their motion, they refer to a case involving a man charged with impersonating an NOPD officer, down to the trousers, T-shirt and “a medallion that resembled an NOPD badge.” They said the judge tossed out the case for lack of a specific intent.
The judge was Cannizzaro.
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