Jim Letten, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana and head of an office embroiled in a widening scandal involving online posts made by some of his subordinates, announced his resignation during a news conference this morning.
Letten, the longest-serving U.S. Attorney in the nation and a New Orleans native, thanked his law enforcement partners, staff and family, and said his resignation will be effective Dec. 11.
“It is, I believe, the best course of action under the circumstances,” Letten said. “Most of all for this office, for this Department of Justice, for its people, for the people we serve in this community, so this office can move forward.”
Letten has served as the head of the New Orleans federal prosecutor’s office for over 11 years, the longest tenure of any current U.S. attorney, and has been with the Department of Justice for 28 years. U.S. attorneys are appointed by the President, and most are replaced or retire when a new administration takes office.
“It is essential that the challenges which we take on — and especially our current challenges that we are going through right now — never, ever, ever, under any circumstances, threaten to divert or distract us from our sacred mission of protecting the freedoms, the property, the lives and the quality of life of all of our people, especially the most vulnerable, with every drop of energy that we have, with all of our time, and with all of our resources,” Letten said.
Letten has been at the center of many of the biggest federal corruption prosecutions in recent memory during his career in Louisiana, including the prosecution and conviction of former Gov. Edwin Edwards in 2000.
However, his office has recently been distracted by an unfolding scandal involving comments made by subordinates on NOLA.com about open prosecutions.
Letten said he has an enormous sense of pride in what his office has accomplished over the years, but the distractions made it necessary for the office to bring on new leadership to move forward.
"New Orleans, this city, this region, this state, are all places of which all of our citizens can be truly proud, and prouder every single day because of the ground we’ve covered, because of the victories we’ve forged, because of the culture we together have changed, and we cannot and will not look backward or go back. We have to continue to look forward," Letten said.
"We must never, ever give up the fight that we’ve taken, that we have carried to our streets, to our neighborhoods, to our schools, and to all those institutions, that do and must and will continue to serve our people, and serve our people first," he said.
Letten will be replaced by Dana Boente, the First Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, the Department of Justice said in a news release after Letten's announcement. Boente was acting interim U.S. attorney during that office's prosecution of former Rep. William Jefferson.
Letten said he will stay on for a short time to contribute to the transition.