Thursday, July 10, 2014
Crime and the black politician: Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for bribery, money laundering and other corruption that spanned his two terms as mayor - including the chaotic years after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005
Nagin was convicted on February 12, 2014 of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars from businessmen who wanted work from the city or Nagin's support for various projects. The bribes came in the form of money, free vacations and truckloads of free granite for his family business. The 58-year-old black Democrat had defiantly denied any wrongdoing after his 2013 indictment and during his February trial. Moments before sentencing, a subdued Nagin made a brief statement, thanking the judge for her professionalism. He made no apologies. "I trust that God's going to work all this out," he said. After the sentencing, Nagin smiled and hugged supporters as he walked out of the courtroom with his wife, Seletha, and other family members and friends. Nagin is to report to the federal prison in Oakdale, Louisiana, in September 2014. U.S. District Judge Helen Berrigan noted the serious nature of the crimes, but cited several other factors in her decision to depart from sentencing guidelines that could have put Nagin in prison for as many as 20 years. She said that Nagin should not be cast as the leader of the scheme in which participants got millions of dollars in city work. "Mr. Nagin claimed a much, much smaller share of the profits in this conspiracy," Berrigan. Nagin received roughly $500,000. Nagin was a political newcomer when he won election as New Orleans' mayor, succeeding Marc Morial in 2002. He cast himself as a reformer and announced crackdowns on corruption in the city's automobile-inspection and taxi-permit programs. But federal prosecutors point out that his own corrupt acts began during his first term, continued through the Katrina catastrophe and flourished in his second term. Until his indictment in 2013, he was perhaps best known for a widely heard radio interview in which he angrily and profanely asked for stepped-up federal response in the days after levee breaches flooded most of the city during Katrina. He also drew notoriety for impolitic remarks, such as the racially charged "New Orleans will be chocolate again" and his comment that a growing violent crime problem "keeps the New Orleans brand out there." Elected in 2002 with strong support from the business community and white voters, Nagin won re-election in 2006 with a campaign that sometimes played on fears among black voters that they were being left out of the city's spotty recovery. He was limited by law to two consecutive terms, but a third term would have been unlikely, giving plunging approval ratings and the stricken city's continued recovery struggles. He was succeeded in 2010 by Mitch Landrieu. Most government pre-sentence reports and recommendations were not made public, but a filing ahead of the sentencing hearing indicated that prosecutors were pushing for a sentence of 20 years or more under federal sentencing guidelines.