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Posted: Wednesday, 12 February 2014 6:15PM

Nagin guilty on 20 of 21 counts



Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin was convicted Wednesday on charges that he accepted bribes, free trips and other gratuities from contractors in exchange for helping them secure millions of dollars in city work while he was in office, including right after Hurricane Katrina.

READ MORE: See how the jury voted count-by-count

The federal jury found Nagin guilty of 20 of 21 counts against him. He sat quietly at the defense table after the verdict was read and his wife, Seletha, was being consoled in the front row.

Before the verdict, the 57-year-old Ray Nagin said outside the New Orleans courtroom: "I've been at peace with this for a long time. I'm good."

The Democrat, who left office in 2010 after eight years, was indicted in January 2013 on charges 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 also was charged with accepting thousands of dollars in in payoffs from another businessman, Rodney Williams, for his help in securing city contracts.

Leaving the courthouse, Nagin's trademark loquaciousness took a back seat, as the former mayor had little to say.

"I maintain my innocence," is all Nagin had to say as reporters chased him and his lawyer, Robert Jenkins, as the pair walked from federal court back to Jenkins's downtown law office.

"It's just like any normal case," Jenkins said.  "You file your appeal and we're going to do that."

Nagin and his attorney speak briefly as they leave the courthouse:

Mayor Landrieu released a statement asking voters to keep their eyes on the road ahead: "This is a very sad day for the people of the city of New Orleans. The conviction of former Mayor Nagin is another clear indication that the people of this city will not tolerate public corruption or abuse of power. Four years ago, the people of this city turned the page on that sad chapter for New Orleans and on the old way of doing business. We are moving forward and are restoring the public's trust in government. Our city's best days are ahead of us."

Nagin is best remembered for his impassioned pleas for help after levees broke during Hurricane Katrina, flooding much of New Orleans and plunging the city into chaos.

Nagin testified that key witnesses lied and prosecutors misinterpreted evidence including emails, checks and pages from his appointment calendar linking him to businessmen who said they bribed him.

The defense repeatedly said prosecutors overstated Nagin's authority to approve contracts. His lawyer said there is no proof money and material given to the granite business owned by Nagin and his sons was tied to city business.

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 charges 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 was set.

Prosecutors say he took hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of bribes including money, free travel and granite for Stone Age LLC, a family granite business.

They allege the corruption spanned the time before and after Hurricane Katrina struck in August 2005.

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 Jan. 27.

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 also is awaiting sentencing after a plea deal, told jurors 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.

Nagin said he did not to know his vacation trips to Jamaica and Hawaii were paid for by St. Pierre. He also said he wasn't told that a family trip to New York was paid for by a movie theater owner who, prosecutors said, received help with a city tax issue after Katrina wiped out the theater.

The government released the following reaction to the Nagin verdict:

"Our public servants pledge to provide honest services to the people of Southeast Louisiana.  We are committed to bringing any politician who violates that obligation to justice," stated United States Attorney Kenneth Allen Polite, Jr.

"The tireless efforts of the investigative and prosecution team, exceeding 5 years, yielded the just and fair result in holding former Mayor Nagin fully accountable for serving his own personal interests well above those of the city at a time when it needed leadership, integrity and honest dealings the most," stated Michael Anderson, Special Agent in Charged for the FBI New Orleans Field Office.

“The investigation and subsequent prosecution of former Mayor, C. Ray Nagin, and his co-conspirators represents the closing of a dark chapter in the history of this great city.  While most people were working to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina these individuals were conspiring to benefit themselves at the expense of the citizens that elected them” stated Gabriel L. Grchan, Special Agent in Charge of IRS Criminal Investigation.  “Special Agents of IRS Criminal Investigation are elite financial investigators and will continue to lend our expertise to this and other task forces to ensure that those elected to public service do just that—serve the public, not contrive backroom deals to get themselves, and their family, private jet trips around the world or secure their family-owned businesses coveted contracts.  It also sends a reminder to everyone that all income, legal and illegal, must be reported to the Internal Revenue Service.  Know that we, with our federal law enforcement partners, will continue to ensure that all Americans, including public officials, are held to the same standard.  No one is above the law.”

“The New Orleans Office of Inspector General congratulates our federal partners in the successful prosecution of the former mayor.  OIG involvement in the case dates to 2009 when an evaluation led to a joint investigation of Greg Meffert.  The OIG will continue to protect the City from those who would defraud it,” stated Ed Quatrevaux, Inspector General, City of New Orleans.


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