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Federal Prosecutor Trashed Fred Heebe Online


The sins at the center of the latest scandal to erupt from New Orleans' halls of power were not carried out in a back alley, or even on a yacht. Instead, they were simply the work of a man sitting down at his desk and writing out his thoughts. At the behest of trash tycoon Fred Heebe, NOLA.com commenter Henry L. Mencken1951 was outed today. The man hiding behind the curmudgeonly cloak was indeed one of the federal prosecutors figured to be leading the effort to bring Heebe down from the top of the landfill.

 

After a quiet week on the boards, Sal Perricone admitted that he was the commenter who lobbed anonymous barbs at Heebe and other local legal players that irked him. Despite Perricone's obvious sin and the initial shock that a powerful lawyer capabe of using all of the levers of the U.S. Justice System to bring down his nemesis would lower himself to a space normally reserved for racists, Perricone's situation remains a moral hornet's nest.

 

After all, this incorrigible online lurker was outed by a man who will one day perhaps stand accused of bribing a state official, buying off a local broadcast legend and cheating to give himself the exclusive right to house all of Jefferson Parish's garbage. And, anyway, since when did we lose the right to log on and vent? So where do the boundaries of this morass sit? Sounds like a situation for...Henry L. Mencken.

 

H.L. Mencken, a popular Baltimore newspaper columnist and author from the time of Orwell (1920s-40s) will forever be shorthanded as a malcontent who could cut through a quandary. The many-layered predicament of Heebe and Perricone is just the kind of show that he relished in the 20s, when he covered the Scopes trial - ostensibly a showdown over the right to teach evolution in a state of Tennessee-funded school. Mencken's coverage of what he dubbed the "monkey trial" was his most famous work. 

 

Mencken's acid opinions are almost absurdly quotable, and it seems in taking the great contrarian's namesake, Perricone fell under his spell. From a look at Mencken's quotes, even Mencken1951's direct attacks on Heebe may have been born out of his penchant for the great writer. For instance, there was the Mencken line that may have driven him to take to the forum in the first place:

 

 

The basic fact about human existence is not that it is a tragedy, but that it is a bore. It is not so much a war as an endless standing in line. The objection to it is not that it is predominantly painful, but that it is lacking in sense.

 

 

Indeed, Heebe has been under investigation by the feds at least since at least 2010, when the offices of his River Birch Landfill were raided by the FBI. Since then, a state official pleaded guilty to accepting bribes, but the feds have yet to so much as name Heebe in any legal documents. Still, countless revelations, including a shocking out by the T-P that radio host Garland Robinette accepted a loan from Heebe around the time he needed media support for the landfill the most, have put Heebe under a microscope around New Orleans. When Heebe's defamation lawsuit came down this week, he might have turned to the following Mencken equation for assurance that his alleged crimes couldn't have been greater than those of the man he was investigating:

 

 

When A annoys or injures B on the pretense of saving or improving X, A is a scoundrel.

 

Yet, by Tuesday morning, when Perricone's boss - U.S. Attorney Jim Letten - came around to question him about the case, it appears the sworn prosecutor may have been hearing another quote in his head:

 

 

Conscience is the mother-in-law whose visit never ends.

 
 
So Perricone admitted to his foibles - on the spot, by Letten's telling. The revelation, exposed at a press conference today, was no doubt an embarrassment for the local U.S. Attorney's office, which is normally held up around these parts as the moral high ground of civic leadership. Perricone will be removed from the Heebe case, and awaits word from Washington on his ultimate punishement. He must watch from the sideline while Heebe appreciates the leg up he now has on the feds.
 
 
Perricone might have been in full costume, masking as Mencken-the freedom lover, when he turned to the keyboard one final time to append a comment about Heebe to the T-P's story about the lawsuit.
 

 I'm here. Watching our rights erode.

 
 
He might not have hit the impersonation dead-on, however, as Mencken had other thoughts on the matter that are unlikely to console Perricone at this hour:
 
 
 
 

Equality before the law is probably forever inattainable. It is a noble ideal, but it can never be realized, for what men value in this world is not rights but privileges.




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