March 20, 2012
“Henry L Mencken1951” unmasked as US prosecutor, prolific commenter
by Ariel Bogle
Aficionados of the MobyLives comment section beware, your literary pseudonyms may not protect you.
The Times-Picayune reports that a US prosecutor has been unmasked as a prolific and often angry commentator on NOLA.com, the online offshoot of The Times-Picayune. Using the handle “Henry L. Mencken1951”, the prosecutor Sal Perricone lambasted a variety of local and national figures, including federal judges, in the comments section of NOLA.com. He didn’t spare his own boss either, writing on one article “[US Attorney Jim] Letten is great for taking credit for other people’s hard work. It is the assistants and agents who do the work and should be congratulated.”
According to The Times-Picayune, “Mencken1951’s” handle was in homage to Henry Louis “H. L.” Mencken, the caustic Baltimore Sun columnist and essayist. That Mencken, who died in 1956, was perhaps best known for his satirical reporting of the 1925 Scopes trial, which he dubbed the “monkey trial.”
Perricone’s exposure began when he lashed Fred Heebe and his family on articles relating to legal questions about Heebe’s business practices. Heebe is one subject of a probe into the River Birch landfill, a case that Perricone was involved in prosecuting.
Angered by the criticism on NOLA.com and struck by the in-depth knowledge of “Mencken1951” about his case, Heebe hired a former FBI profiler, James Fitzgerald, to analyze the comments.
“Fitzgerald noted eye-popping similarities between the language used by “Mencken1951” and a legal brief filed by Perricone and two other prosecutors in a matter related to the River Birch investigation. Among other things, he said both the author of the legal brief and “Mencken1951” were fans of alliteration and rarely used, antiquated words, including “dubiety” and “redoubt.”
Like Mencken, Perricone seems irrepressible. According to The Washington Post, he was still commenting even after he was exposed: “I’m here..Watching our rights erode.”
I’m not sure what H. L. Mencken would have made of Perricone’s use of his name or alliteration, although I feel he would be just as opinionated. Incidently, you can buy Mencken’s book “A Religious Orgy in Tennessee” from Melville House here. Compare the literary style of Mencken and “Mencken1951” for yourself.
Ariel Bogle is a former publicist at Melville House.