Convicted former two-term New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin today was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison. The sentence from U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan was less severe than expected. Federal sentencing guidelines recommended 15 to 20 years for Nagin.
It's an ignominious end to a political career that began relatively late in the 2002 mayor's race. That's when the Cox Cable executive entered the campaign as a newcomer to politics.
He initially took on the role of government reformer, pledging to conduct the city's business in a more open fashion than his predecessors. One of his first major moves was to expose corruption among the city's vehicle inspection officials.
But towards the end of his first four years in office, Nagin had earned a reputation as a mayor who would offer lofty proposals that often never came to fruition, such as selling New Orleans Armstrong International Airport to a private operator, or bottling New Orleans tap water to sell commercially.
Then came Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and Nagin was suddenly a fixture in the national news media. His emotional interview with WWL's Garland Robinette in the storms aftermath, in which he urged the federal government to "get off your asses" and help as 80 percent of the city lay flooded, was replayed numerous times by various media outlets.
The infamous "chocolate city" speech came months later. Although Nagin said he meant to reassure black residents displace by Katrina, many saw it as being racially divisive. Even though he won reelection in the spring of 2006, recovery proposals never seemed to materialize.
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, who turned 58 last month, is now faced with the prospect of not seeing freedom until he is 68 years old. The judge ordered him to report to the federal prison in Oakdale, Louisiana, in just under two months: September 8.