Judge cuts ex-New Orleans mayor slack with 10-year sentence

McClatchy Washington BureauJuly 9, 2014 

Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin was sentenced Tuesday to serve 10 years in prison, winning leniency from federal sentencing guidelines months after a jury found him guilty of 20 of 21 felony counts, including bribery, wire fraud, tax evasion and fraud that deprived the city’s citizens of his honest services.

Under the sentencing guidelines, the 58-year-old Nagin was facing up to 20 years behind bars.

U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan found that Nagin wasn’t a leader of the criminal conspiracy in which he took payoffs, concluding that all of the defendants were “equally culpable” and it was just to depart from the guidelines, according to accounts of his sentencing before a packed courtroom in New Orleans.

She said that his crimes “were motivated in part by a deeply misguided desire to provide for those closest to him” and that sentencing should “reflect Nagin’s ability to harm the public again,” WWL-TV in New Orleans reported.

Prosecutors immediately objected to the sentence, the station said.

Nagin, a former businessman who now lives in Frisco, Texas, was the face of the embattled city after it was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 with winds and flooding that overwhelmed a faulty levee system, damage eventually blamed for nearly 1,500 fatalities. As the casualties mounted and looters swept through the abandoned city, Nagin and his fellow Democrat, Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco, decried the sluggish response of the Bush administration’s Federal Emergency Management Agency.

However, another portrait of Nagin emerged in recent years as word of a criminal investigation spread. It grew from an evaluation of the city’s Crime Camera System in 2009 by New Orleans’ inspector general, Ed Quatreveaux, that turned up financial discrepancies.

Quatreveaux said that a joint investigation between his office and the FBI found that Nagin, who served as mayor from 2002 to 2010, led to the convictions of the former mayor, his chief technology officer and others.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported that Nagin got a shorter term than the 17-year sentence imposed on Frank Fradella, the former chief executive of disaster management firm Home Solutions of America, who was convicted of conspiring to bribe Nagin with trips, cash and truckloads of granite. A different judge handled Fradella’s case.

In late May, the judge signed a preliminary order requiring Nagin to forfeit assets in the amount of $501,200.26.

Nagin, who thanked the judge and her staff for their “professionalism,” wore a brightly colored necktie and managed a broad smile as he strode outside the courthouse.

Following the sentencing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Coman said outside the courthouse that “what Ray Nagin did was sell his office over and over and over again,” further staining the reputation of a city with a history of public corruption.

His sentence matched the 10-year term handed to former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards, who was convicted of corruption in 2000.

Email: ggordon@mcclatchydc.com; Twitter: @greggordon2.

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