Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Black crime and politics: Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin has been convicted of accepting bribes in exchange for helping businessmen secure millions of dollars in city work including after Hurricane Katrina
The federal jury found Nagin guilty of 20 of 21 counts against him. The Democrat, who left office in 2010 after eight years, was indicted in January 2013 on charges that he accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes and truckloads of free granite for his family business in exchange for promoting the interests of local businessman Frank Fradella. He was also charged with accepting thousands of dollars in payoffs from another businessman, Rodney Williams, for his help in securing city contracts. The charges against Nagin included one overarching conspiracy count along with six counts of bribery, nine counts of wire fraud, one count of money laundering conspiracy and four counts of filing false tax returns. He was acquitted of one of the bribery counts. Each charge carries a sentence from 3 to 20 years, but how long he would serve was unclear and will depend on a pre-sentence investigation and various sentencing guidelines. No sentencing date has been set. Nagin took hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of bribes including money, free travel and granite for Stone Age LLC, a family granite business. The corruption spanned the time before and after Hurricane Katrina struck in August 2005, plunging the city into chaos. The conviction wasn't a surprise to Rainelle Smith, 64, of New Orleans, who said that she voted for Nagin. "I don't believe he served the city as well as he should have," she said. "He was supposed to come in and prevent the corruption the city was known for. We, in my family, thought of him as the 'cleanup man.' Instead he gets in office and he soiled it more." The charges resulted from a City Hall corruption investigation that had resulted in several convictions or guilty pleas by former Nagin associates by the time trial started on January 27, 2014. Fradella and Williams, both awaiting sentencing for their roles in separate bribery schemes alleged in the case, each testified that they bribed Nagin. Nagin's former technology chief, Greg Meffert, who is also awaiting sentencing after a plea deal, told jurors that he helped another businessman, Mark St. Pierre, bribe Nagin with lavish vacation trips. St. Pierre did not testify. He was convicted in the case in 2011.