Criminal Defendant Outs Anonymous Web Site Commenter — Who Turns Out to Be One of the Prosecutors

Ars Technica reports; the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports that the prosecutor is being investigated by the Justice Department for possible violations of Justice Department policies. An excerpt from Ars Technica (read the whole thing, which also includes many links):

A federal investigation involving New Orleans landfill magnate Fred Heebe took a surprising turn this week. Heebe filed a court petition (PDF) claiming a frequent commenter on local-news site was in fact Sal Parricone, one of the prosecutors assigned to his case. Heebe turned out to be right.

The commenter took regular shots at Heebe and his family, seeming to know more about the case than an average reader of the site might….

So Heebe hired a former FBI forensic linguist, James R. Fitzgerald, to analyze 598 comments made over the course of 6 months by a commenter using the handle “Henry L. Mencken1951”. Fitzgerald, who also worked on the arrest and prosecution of Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, compared the comments made by “Mencken1951” to the language in a 9-page proceeding filed by three Assistant U.S. Attorneys, including Parricone, against the CEO of Heebe’s company, River Birch Landfill. The language was strikingly similar. Given that Parricone was born in 1951, Heebe singled him out in the court petition. On Thursday afternoon, U.S. Attorney Jim Letten confirmed Perricone had used the “Henry L. Mencken1951” handle.

UPDATE: Parricone has resigned. (Note that he’s eligible for retirement.) Thanks to commenter summerslex for the pointer.

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