Ray Nagin, Former New Orleans Mayor, Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison
ORLEANS — C. Ray Nagin, the former mayor of New Orleans, was sentenced
to 10 years in prison on Wednesday on federal corruption charges, ending
a case that began with the rebuilding of the city after Hurricane
sentence was less than the recommended 15 years, but Judge Ginger
Berrigan of United States District Court for the Eastern District of
Louisiana told the court that the evidence failed to show that Mr. Nagin
had organized or had been a leader of a corruption scheme.
Nagin claimed a much, much smaller share of the profits of the crime
than any other member of the group,” Judge Berrigan said, referring to
the businessmen who profited from the scheme. The judge said that Mr.
Nagin’s leadership was much needed after Hurricane Katrina but that it
had also been lagging.
Prosecutors objected to the sentence, a move that could set up an appeal.
Nagin, who will remain out on bond, hugged family and friends after the
sentencing, and was quickly driven away from the courtroom. “I’m
trusting God is going to work all this out,” he said during sentencing.
The judge ordered him to report for prison no later than Sept. 8.
Reaction was swift, and mixed.
think that he got off lightly considering the violations of the public
trust,” said Edward E. Chervenak, a political science professor at the
University of New Orleans and a critic of Mr. Nagin during his eight
years as mayor.
think he should have gotten more time,” says Michelle Alford, 37, a
native of New Orleans and a hotel employee. “He did nothing to benefit
the city. I think he should have gotten 20 years at least. I think it’s
ridiculous. It’s ridiculous.”
longtime civil rights advocate in New Orleans, Jerome Smith, said he
offered Mr. Nagin words of encouragement after the sentencing. “I just
let him know that he has spiritual support,” Mr. Smith said.
Mr. Nagin, a Democrat, was found guilty
in February on 20 counts, most relating to kickbacks from contractors
looking for city work. He 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, though not all, took place after Hurricane Katrina, when
contractors crowded into the city for rebuilding work.
Many of those involved eventually pleaded guilty and testified at length against Mr. Nagin at his trial.
corruption had been so thoroughly covered in the local news media that
few people were surprised by the verdicts in February. Mr. 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 Hurricane
Katrina stalled and Mr. Nagin seemed unengaged. By the time he left
office in 2010, many in New Orleans had moved past frustration and were
simply ready to see him go.
the trial the courtroom was half-empty, except for a riveting two days
when Mr. 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 that federal prosecutors displayed on a large
a court filing urging a stiff sentence, federal prosecutors had
described Mr. 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
witness stand. As they had at trial, prosecutors also contrasted Mr.
Nagin’s attention to detail in some of the kickback schemes with what
many came to see as his lackadaisical stewardship in office.
repeated violations, at the expense of the citizens of New Orleans in a
time when honest leadership was needed most, do not deserve leniency,”
wrote Matthew M. Coman, an assistant United States attorney.
Jenkins, the lawyer representing Mr. Nagin, had urged leniency, arguing
that Mr. Nagin has a “completely sterling record” outside of the
convictions and that the behavior described at trial is a “complete
aberration to his otherwise outstanding life.”