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Posted: Thursday, 24 October 2013 11:26AM

Nagin's bribery trial postponed until next year



A federal judge agreed Thursday to postpone the trial of former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin on bribery charges.

Nagin's trial was scheduled to start Monday, but U.S. District Judge Helen Berrigan delayed it until Jan. 27.

Nagin's lawyer, Robert Jenkins, had asked for more time to prepare. Prosecutors opposed his request for a delay, arguing Jenkins already has had adequate time.

Berrigan, however, noted in her order that prosecutors plan to present a "considerable number of documents" for a case that delves into Nagin's entire eight-year tenure as mayor.

"Under the circumstances, the ends of justice to be served by granting a continuance outweigh the best interest of the public and the defendant in a speedy trial," she wrote. "The failure to grant such a continuance would likely result in a miscarriage of justice."

Legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Donald "Chick" Foret told WWL First News that the order comes as a surprise.

"Everyone who has followed this case closely is totally shocked," Foret said. "I think we can reasonably assume there were some extensive plea bargain discussion that were taking place."

Nagin, whose second and final term as mayor ended in 2010, was indicted in January on charges he accepted free trips and more than $200,000 in bribes from contractors in exchange for helping them secure lucrative city contracts.

The case is the centerpiece of a City Hall corruption investigation that already has resulted in guilty pleas by two former city officials and two businessmen and a prison sentence for a former city vendor.

Jenkins also had asked Berrigan to throw out Nagin's indictment, arguing the case has been tainted by the online activities of at least two federal prosecutors who acknowledged posting anonymous comments on a newspaper's website about cases, judges and politicians, including Nagin. Berrigan rejected that request last week.

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