Ray Nagin leaves the courthouse in New Orleans after being
found guilty on graft charges. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman
Former New Orleans mayor C. Ray Nagin has been found
guilty by a federal jury of accepting bribes and trading on the
public trust during the critical years of rebuilding after
Hurricane Katrina devastated the city in 2005.
A jury of six men and six women convicted Nagin on 20 of 21
counts, including bribery, wire fraud, conspiracy, money
laundering and tax evasion. It acquitted him on one bribery
A sentencing hearing has been set for June 11. Nagin, 57,
faces at least 20 years in jail, according to legal experts.
Prosecutors said the combined value of the bribes, which
included lavish personal parties, private jet rides and
first-class airfare for a Nagin family shopping trip to New
York, totalled more than $500,000.
U.S. District Judge Helen Berrigan told Nagin, after reading
the verdict in court, that she is modifying the terms of his
bond to require that he submit to "location monitoring" and
be subject to home detention until his sentencing.
During the 10-day trial, the jury heard from some 30
prosecution witnesses, including a City Hall insider and
contractors who earlier pleaded guilty to bribing public
officials and are awaiting sentencing.
Prosecutors described Nagin as a mayor on the take, granting
favors for bribes that included tons of free granite
delivered to a kitchen countertop company he ran with his
"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," U.S.
Attorney Kenneth Allen Polite Jr., said in a statement.
Nagin showed no obvious initial reaction as the verdict was
read. Seated behind him, his wife Seletha sobbed quietly. As
he and his lawyer left the courtroom, a then nearly tearful
Nagin paused briefly to clutch her hand.
Nagin had spent several hours on the witness stand during
which he flatly denied taking bribes and insisted any money
he put into his sons' business was an investment.
"Like any father, I wanted to help my sons," he told jurors.
Nagin's defense questioned the credibility of those who
testified against the former mayor in exchange for what might
be lighter prison sentences.
Asked by a reporter if Nagin is likely to appeal the verdict,
his lawyer Robert Jenkins said: "Of course."
A former cable TV executive who rode a wave of support into
office in 2002 on promises to run an ethical government,
Nagin won re-election four years later. According to
prosecutors, he immediately began conspiring to extract money
from contractors to fund the floundering business run by his
sons Jeremy and Jarin Nagin.
A grand jury indictment returned in January 2013 said the
former mayor accepted gifts that included some $200,000 in
cash and wire transfers, free vacations for him and his
family to Hawaii and Jamaica and the truckloads of granite.
Commenting after the verdict, the head of a local watchdog
agency said justice had been served.
"What we just saw displayed to the public was a nauseating
case of abuse of public power for personal enrichment," said
Rafael Goyeneche, president of the New Orleans Metropolitan
Nagin, who now lives in Frisco, Texas, stirred national
controversy with his erratic behaviour after Katrina broke
floodwalls and inundated New Orleans, killing 1500 people and
leaving tens of thousands of people homeless.
Days after the storm, an angry Nagin chided federal officials
to "get off your asses" and send help to the city.
Later, as he sought re-election in 2006, Nagin, an
African-American who previously enjoyed strong support from
both black and white voters, seemed to take a racially
divisive approach to his campaign.
He was criticized for racial divisiveness after he urged
residents to rebuild a "chocolate New Orleans," referring to
its majority African-American population.