Sal Perricone is writing under his own name these days, but the verdict must be the same.
The online comments he made under pen names as a federal prosecutor were the ill-written effusions of a blowhard but were evidently not deemed a crime. Same goes for the novel he wrote after being kicked out of his job. He would be under indictment if it were a felony to traduce the Muse, but, sadly for the reading public, it isn’t.
It would be too painful to dilate on the book’s creaky plot, its tedious, cardboard characters, their strained dialogue and the sophomoric pretensions of its prose style. So let us look heavenward.
In his dedication to the book, Perricone writes, “I would like to thank God for never allowing me to have writers’ block.”
A merciful God would change his mind if Perricone were tempted to write a sequel.
Perricone might wish he had been afflicted with writer’s block when he was working as one of then-U.S. Attorney Jim Letten’s top assistants, because he might then still be one. But he never had any trouble churning out bilious and defamatory reactions to online news accounts, many of them about cases he was handling.
The Justice Department has just released a report — heavily redacted to ensure the public’s right to know doesn’t get out of hand — that calculates that Perricone, over 41/2 years, contributed more than 2,650 comments to a newspaper website. He used four aliases to do so.
If you attend Perricone’s book signing, maybe he will forget himself and scrawl, say, “campstblue” or “legacyusa” on the fly leaf. Certainly he does not seem embarrassed to have ended his career in disgrace for perverting the course of justice; he is still crowing. In his acknowledgements to the book, he includes “all the corrupt miscreants I have had the pleasure of investigating and prosecuting.”
Perricone’s online posts, and similar stunts by his supervisor Jan Mann, constituted such “grotesque” misconduct, U.S. Judge Kurt Engelhardt ruled, that he ordered a new trial for the cops convicted in the Danziger Bridge bloodbath in the aftermath of Katrina. Yet Perricone is evidently still a hotshot in his own mind.
Still, at least when Perricone was fingered as the author of all those poisonous rants, he was not fool enough to deny it. He ’fessed up to Letten and was out the door pronto, with plenty of time to turn his hand to literature.
That was an ironic choice of a new career, for it was his ineptitude as a writer that brought an end to his old one. Fred Heebe, target of a federal probe and one of his favorite online butts, hired a linguist to compare the pseudonymous website comments with court pleadings signed by Perricone. They featured many of the same “idiosyncratic lexical features,” which apparently means obscure words, and punctuation errors.
Mann has a distinctive style too, so it must have been pretty easy for Heebe’s expert to prove that she also had been appending illicit comments to online newspaper stories about pending cases. She was nowhere near so prolific as Perricone — the Justice Department report says she posted some 40 times using the alias “eweman” — but she was even more unscrupulous. She was not outed until months after Perricone and did her best to bluff it out. Not only did she dummy up about her own online offenses but she purported to be managing the fallout from Perricone’s.
In her attempt to save her skin, the Justice Department report concludes, Mann was “deceptive,” “not straightforward” and “made misrepresentations or omitted material information” in her dealings with Letten, two federal judges and various government investigators.
Such a lack of veracity has gotten a lot of people in trouble with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Perricone and Mann’s husband Jim Mann, for instance, prosecuted then-Insurance Commissioner Jim Brown for lying to the FBI and got him sent up the river for six months.
Neither Perricone nor Jan Mann appears to be in any danger of prosecution. How they managed to skate is a question that Brown and countless other ex-cons will be pondering.
James Gill’s email address is email@example.com.