updated 10/30/2007 8:45:33 PM ET 2007-10-31T00:45:33

District Attorney Eddie Jordan, criticized for his response to New Orleans’ growing crime problem and stung by a $3.7 million discrimination verdict against his office, said Tuesday that he will resign.

“I’m resigning not because I’m a quitter,” Jordan said at a news conference, “but because I honestly think that this painful act will help prevent further disruption of the district attorney’s office, the criminal justice system and our city’s fight against crime.” He said he will resign Wednesday.

Anger over Jordan’s performance, fed in part by his decisions to abandon two high-profile prosecutions and his apparently inadvertent sheltering of an armed robbery suspect, rose again this week when a federal judge refused to delay payment in the discrimination case. That opened the door to the possible seizure of assets of his office.

“I’m hoping my departure will end the threat of the seizure of the district attorney’s office’s assets,” Jordan said.

Baty Landis, co-founder of the anti-violence group Silence is Violence, said the move was best for New Orleans.

“Mr. Jordan always struck me as an intelligent man, but for some reason he was unable to operate as the district attorney,” Landis said. “This has got to be good for the office. The morale there has been so low. There has been so much criticism and a total lack of leadership. This is a new start for them.”

Ex-employees: Fired for being white
Jordan lost the discrimination lawsuit against dozens of his former employees in 2005. The white former employees said they were fired by Jordan, who is black, because of their race.

Mayor Ray Nagin on Tuesday reiterated that the city would not pay the judgment, saying that it could not afford it and that it would set a bad precedent.

Richard Leefe, an attorney for the fired employees, said Jordan’s resignation will not end the threat of seizing the office’s assets.

“It sounds as if we are being used as an excuse, but it was never about him. The judgment is against his office, and we still want to be paid,” Leefe said.

Jordan also has been among city officials criticized for the city’s growing violent crime problem. New Orleans has had 178 homicides so far this year, compared with 162 all last year, and a backlog of criminal cases moving slowly through the courts.

Jordan said he was not forced to resign: “No, this is all about the district attorney’s office and what is in the best interest of the office.”

Criticism of Jordan became particularly heated this year after he dropped charges in two high-profile cases: One defendant was accused of murdering five teenagers; the other was charged in the death of a popular local musician.

Both cases have since been revived, but shortly after the charges were dismissed, New Orleans City Council member Shelley Midura sent a letter asking Jordan to resign. “Recall Eddie Jordan” signs began appearing around the city, and lawmakers talked of impeaching him on more than one occasion.

Robbery suspect in DA's home
A personal embarrassment was added to Jordan’s troubles this month when it was revealed that an armed robbery suspect had briefly taken shelter in Jordan’s house. The suspect was a family friend of Jordan’s girlfriend.

Jordan said he did not learn until after the man left that he was a criminal suspect. It was also revealed that police investigators were unable to talk to Jordan for three days after the incident.

Jordan, 55, previously was U.S. attorney in New Orleans. His office successfully prosecuted former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards on corruption charges stemming from the extortion of casino license applicants.

Jordan leaves with slightly more than a year remaining on his six-year term, which began in January 2003. Veteran prosecutor Keva Landrum-Johnson will step in temporarily but has agreed not to run for the office in a special election the governor must call, Jordan said.

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