Times-Picayune granted more time to respond to subpoena

A federal magistrate judge granted a request Tuesday by The Times-Picayune for additional time to respond to a subpoena ordering the newspaper to produce information about two pseudonymous commenters who posted disparaging remarks about the target of a federal investigation on the newspaper’s website, nola.com.

U.S. Magistrate Joseph Wilkinson, who ordered The Times-Picayune last week to provide the information to him by 5 p.m. Wednesday, agreed to the newspaper’s request for a nine-day extension. The information is now due Feb. 28.

The information about the two commenters, who used the aliases “jammer1954’ and “aircheck,” is being sought by defense attorney Eddie Castaing as part of an apparent claim that the government engaged in prosecutorial misconduct in targeting of his client, Stacey Jackson. In a letter to the court, Castaing said he did not oppose a delay, but he asked for a shorter one. U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite Jr.’s office took no position on the question.

In earlier rulings, Wilkinson has suggested that “jammer1954” and “aircheck” might be federal prosecutors, law enforcement officers or other Department of Justice employees. Wilkinson said the two posted comments in close proximity to remarks left by “campstblue,” now known to be former federal prosecutor Sal Perricone, and their comments featured the “same kind of cop jargon lingo” that Perricone used.

Castaing sent the newspaper a subpoena for the information last month. When The Times-Picayune objected, saying it wanted to protect its commenters’ right to anonymity, the magistrate ordered the newspaper to provide the information for him to review privately, rather than giving it to the defendant in the case.

Jackson, Castaing’s client, was the head of the quasi-city nonprofit New Orleans Affordable Homeownership, which erupted in scandal in 2008. She was indicted last year for allegedly taking bribes from contractors who worked for the program. Her case is set for trial May 12.

Before going after the commenters, Castaing had sought a copy of the “Horn report,” a report on an investigation into misconduct by prosecutors in the local U.S. Attorney’s Office that was prompted by the news that Perricone and former First Assistant U.S. Attorney Jan Mann had been posting pseudonymous comments about federal targets at nola.com.

Mann and Perricone both resigned in 2012, as did their boss, longtime U.S. Attorney Jim Letten.

The Times-Picayune’s motion for additional time did not indicate whether the newspaper plans to appeal Wilkinson’s order. Rather, it said that producing the information by Wednesday would be difficult because “the individuals associated with The Times-Picayune who have the ability to retrieve the information at issue are located out of state, and the retrieval of the information involves review of multiple databases by personnel in several states.”