Former New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin jailed for corruption

Democrat sentenced to 10 years for taking kickbacks from firms seeking city business

Ray Nagin, the former mayor of New Orleans who was convicted in February on corruption charges, was sentenced to 10 years in prison today. Photograph:  Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images.

Ray Nagin, the former mayor of New Orleans who was convicted in February on corruption charges, was sentenced to 10 years in prison today. Photograph: Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images.

 

Ray Nagin, the former mayor of New Orleans who was convicted in February on corruption charges, was sentenced to 10 years in prison today.

Nagin was found guilty on 20 counts, most relating to kickbacks from contractors looking for city work.

The sentence was imposed by Judge Ginger Berrigan of US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

Nagin, a Democrat, was arrested in January 2013, nearly three years after he left office. He was charged with taking kickbacks in the form of cash, cross-country trips or help with a family-run granite countertop company; the bribes were handed out by men looking for city business ranging from software supplies to sidewalk repair.

Many of the schemes, though not all, took place after Hurricane Katrina, when contractors crowded into the city for rebuilding work. Many of those involved eventually pleaded guilty and testified at length against Nagin at his trial. The corruption had been so thoroughly covered in the local news media that few people were surprised by the verdicts.

Nagin had come into office in 2002 as a reformer from the business world and a foe of cronyism. But the city grew frustrated with his stewardship, particularly in his second term when the rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina stalled and Nagin seemed unengaged.

By the time he left office in 2010, many in New Orleans had moved past frustration and were simply ready to see him go.

Throughout the trial the courtroom was half-empty, except for a riveting two days when Nagin took the stand and denied everything, at times with a glib dismissal. At one point he even refused to recognise his own signature on receipts that federal prosecutors displayed on a large screen.

In a court filing urging a stiff sentence, federal prosecutors described Nagin’s testimony as “a performance that can only be summed up by his astounding unwillingness to accept any responsibility,” and listed in detail 22 instances in which they said he had lied on the witness stand.

As they had at trial, prosecutors also contrasted Nagin’s attention to detail in some of the kickback schemes with what many came to see as his lackadaisical stewardship in office.

“These repeated violations, at the expense of the citizens of New Orleans in a time when honest leadership was needed most, do not deserve leniency,” wrote Matthew M. Coman, an assistant US attorney.

Robert Jenkins, the lawyer representing Nagin, urged leniency, arguing that Nagin has a “completely sterling record” outside of the convictions and that the behaviour described at trial is a “complete aberration to his otherwise outstanding life.”

Earlier, in a letter to Berrigan, Nagin’s wife, Seletha, saying that her husband was innocent, had asked the court to put off the sentencing.

“I’m asking that you delay these sentencing proceedings until we are allowed to see all the reports that have thus far only been summarized but clearly show a pattern of prosecutorial misconduct,” Ms Nagin wrote.

New York Times Service