Ray Nagin, 57, the ex-mayor of New Orleans, is embroiled in a storm of felony convictions after being found guilty of 20 corruption charges in the Eastern Division of Louisiana’s United States District Court Wednesday morning. The case was presided over by U.S. District Court Judge Ginger Berrigan.
The eye of the storm revolved around an absence of information regrading witnesses, a lack of press coverage during the trial and the apparently questionable question of whether he understood the value of the items he was receiving in 2005 when he was running for mayor.
Prosecutors in the case argued that in 2005 Nagin accepted personal gifts for his residence valued at approximately $500,000 while the city he ostensibly governed was reeling in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Some of those gifts were said to have been given to Stone Age LLC, a company his family owns.
According to a story in the Wall Street Journal, “[t]he case grew out of a probe of city contractors and Mr. Nagin’s administration that began shortly after the 2005 hurricane caused billions of dollars in damage and left 80% of the city under water.”
Katrina’s effect on the city of New Orleans was said to be approximately $125 billion, according to a September 9, 2005 story in USA Today. Accuweather, which according to the company’s Web site “provide[s] local forecasts for everywhere in the United States and over two million locations worldwide,” stated in 2011 that Katrina was the third most expensive natural disaster in history. The meteorological agency went on to state that nearly 2,000 people died a as result of the event.
The New Orleans disaster prompted a landmark documentary by filmmaker Spike Lee titled When The Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Parts. The film in its entirety spans nearly four-and-a-half hours and was produced and released by HBO Documentary Films in December, 2006.
It was during the horrific aftermath of the storm that Nagin apparently accepted questionable gifts for his New Orleans home which triggered the corruption investigation.
The city’s paper of record, Times Picayune, wrote lead prosecutor Assistant U.S. Attorney Matt Coman said that he was “pleased with the verdict.”
The Times published a blow-by-blow account of the day’s events immediately following the conviction. One of the more remarkable documents the paper released was the verdict that exhibited each and every one of the present jurors’ decisions.
In the six-page document which was released by the Times, it was exhibited that the first six charges were of bribery and were unanimously found “guilty” by the jury. A seventh bribery charge was ruled as “not guilty.” The remaining 14 charges involved wire fraud, money laundering and filing false income tax returns and were all adjudged “guilty.”
A sentencing date has apparently not been set. According to the Kansas City-based KCTV, “He will be confined to his home until sentencing, which will be determined at a later time.”
Video footage of Nagin exiting the court show him to have been unemotional; eyewitness reports of his behavior in the courtroom said that inside, he was the same. According to several newspaper and other media accounts, his wife, Seletha Nagin, was crying when the verdict was read aloud.
By Randall Fleming