Ex-New Orleans mayor Nagin gets 10 years for bribery, corruption

New York TimesJuly 9, 2014 

NEW ORLEANS -- C. Ray Nagin, the former mayor of New Orleans who was convicted in February on corruption charges, was sentenced to 10 years in prison Wednesday in federal court in New Orleans.

Nagin was found guilty on 20 counts, most relating to kickbacks from contractors. The sentence was imposed by Judge Ginger Berrigan of U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

Nagin, a Democrat, was arrested in January 2013, nearly three years after he left office. He was charged with taking kickbacks in the form of cash, cross-country trips or help with the family-run granite countertop company; the bribes were handed out by men looking for city business ranging from software supplies to sidewalk repair. Many of the schemes took place after Hurricane Katrina, when contractors crowded into the city for rebuilding work.

Many of those involved eventually pleaded guilty and testified against Nagin.

Unengaged stewardship

The corruption had been so thoroughly covered in the area news media few people were surprised by the verdicts. Nagin had come into office in 2002 as a reformer from the business world and a foe of cronyism. But the city grew frustrated with his stewardship, particularly in his second term when the rebuilding after Katrina stalled and Nagin seemed unengaged. By the time he left office in 2010, many in New Orleans were simply ready to see him go.

Throughout the trial the courtroom was half-empty, except for a riveting two days when Nagin took the stand and denied everything, at times with a glib dismissal. At one point he even refused to recognize his own signature on receipts federal prosecutors displayed.

In a court filing urging a stiff sentence, federal prosecutors described Nagin's testimony as "a performance that can only be summed up by his astounding unwillingness to accept any responsibility," and listed in detail 22 instances in which they said he had lied on the stand. As they had at trial, prosecutors also contrasted Nagin's attention to detail in some of the kickback schemes with what many came to see as his lackadaisical stewardship in office.

Robert Jenkins, the lawyer representing Nagin, urged leniency, arguing Nagin has a "completely sterling record" outside of the convictions.

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