The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected former Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard’s request for a hearing at which former U.S. Attorney Jim Letten and two of his former top prosecutors would have been called to testify about the online commenting scandal that led to their resignations in 2012.
The three-judge panel took only one day to issue its decision, which affirmed a district judge’s July dismissal of Broussard’s request to have his guilty plea and conviction on corruption charges thrown out.
“I think I now hold a record for getting the quickest decision from the Court of Appeals,” Broussard’s attorney, Arthur “Buddy” Lemann, said Wednesday afternoon. “I haven’t even unpacked my briefcase. We got ‘due’ without ‘process.’ ”
Lemann argued Tuesday before Judges Edward Prado, Jerry Smith and Priscilla Owen that Broussard’s attorney in his 2012 corruption case would not have recommended he plead guilty had he known the full extent of the commenting scandal. Further, even if Broussard had pleaded guilty, he could have gotten a lighter sentence, Lemann argued.
The judges, however, questioned how the comments made anonymously online by prosecutors Jan Mann and Sal Perricone, most of them about unrelated cases, could have materially affected Broussard’s guilty plea.
Lemann said the comments showed Letten, who ultimately stepped down over the scandal after Mann and Perricone resigned, was improperly prejudiced against his client. He said U.S. District Judge Hayden Head, who dismissed the request to throw out the guilty plea in July, should have granted an evidentiary hearing.
Lemann said Wednesday that further options, such as a request for a hearing before all the 5th Circuit judges, are long shots and very time-consuming.
He said Broussard’s son gave the news of the latest ruling to his father, who is in a Florida prison through September 2016 for cheating taxpayers in a payroll fraud scheme and taking payoffs from a parish contractor.
“I haven’t yet had an opportunity to hear from Aaron about what, if anything, he wants to do,” Lemann said.
Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.