It's sentencing day for convicted former two-term New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin.
"A difficult day for Mr. Nagin today," said Loyola University Shool of Law professor Dane Ciolino. "I would expect that a very minimum he's going to be looking at a 15 to 20 year sentence."
Nagin was a political neophyte when he became New Orleans' 60th mayor in 2002, and earned an early reputation as a reformer. He was a cable television executive and political newcomer when he entered the campaign.
Nagin is perhaps best known for the WWL radio interview in 2005 in which he made an emotional, sometimes profane plea for stepped-up federal help days after levees breached during Katrina. Most of the city had flooded, hundreds died, and tens of thousands were stranded in the Superdome and the city's convention center with no power or working sewerage and little food or water.
In the ensuing months and years, Nagin's public image took a beating, in part because of remarks such as the racially charged "New Orleans will be chocolate again" and his comment that a burgeoning violent crime problem "keeps the New Orleans brand out there." Proposals to aid the city's recovery, such as opening new casinos or bottling the city's drinking water for sale, went nowhere. And, although he won re-election in 2006, by the time he left office in 2010 his popularity had plummeted.
The facade began to crack during Nagin's second term, when investigative reports of allegations of shady dealings turned up redacted public records, and later, public emails missing from the city's computer servers. His former technology czar, Greg Meffert, later pleaded guilty in federal court to taking kickbacks in the form of cash and gifts from a city contractor. The contractor in question, Mark St. Pierre, took his chances with a jury and ended up convicted and sentence to 17 years behind bars.
Nagin was convicted Feb. 12 of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes -- money, free vacation trips and truckloads of free granite for his family business -- from businessmen who wanted work from the city or Nagin's support for various projects.
Prosecutors outlined more than $500,000 in ill-gotten gain that Berrigan already has ruled Nagin will have to forfeit.
Friends, family and even former officials in his administration have all pleaded on Nagin's behalf for leniency, but federal prosecutors say recent similar cases suggest otherwise. Lead prosecutor Matthew Coman draws comparisons to cases like that of Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who received 28 years for his federal corruption convictions, Birmingham mayor Larry Langford, who got 15 years, and Illinois mayor Rod Blagojevich ,who received 14 years. Coman says Nagin deserves no less.
Nagin, who turned 58 last month, may not be a free man until he's in his mid-70s.