Ex-US mayor convicted of taking bribes

2014-02-13 14:54
Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin leaves federal court after his conviction. (Gerald Herbert, AP)

Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin leaves federal court after his conviction. (Gerald Herbert, AP)

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New Orleans - Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, best remembered for his impassioned pleas for help after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city in 2005, was convicted on Wednesday of accepting bribes in exchange for helping businessmen secure millions of dollars in city work.

A federal jury found Nagin guilty of 20 of 21 counts against him. Sentencing was set for 11 June. The judge ordered that his bond be modified to provide for "additional conditions of electronic monitoring and home confinement".

Before the verdict, the 57-year-old said outside the courtroom: "I've been at peace with this for a long time. I'm good." As he left after the verdict, he could be heard saying, "I maintain my innocence".

Katrina elevated Nagin to the global stage, where he gained a reputation for colourful comments. In 2006, he apologised for a speech in which he predicted New Orleans would become a "chocolate city" of black residents and asserted that "God was mad at America".

Payoffs

The Democrat, who left office in 2010, was indicted in January 2013 on charges he accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes and truckloads of free granite for his family business in exchange for promoting the interests of local businessman Frank Fradella.

He also was charged with accepting thousands of dollars in payoffs from another businessman, Rodney Williams, for his help in securing city contracts.

Both Fradella and Williams are awaiting sentencing for their roles in separate bribery schemes alleged in the case.

Nagin testified that key witnesses lied and prosecutors misinterpreted evidence including emails, checks and pages from his appointment calendar linking him to businessmen who said they bribed him.

The charges against Nagin included one overarching conspiracy count along with six counts of bribery, nine counts of wire fraud, one count of money laundering conspiracy and four counts of filing false tax returns. He was acquitted of one of the bribery counts.

Each charge carries a sentence from 3 to 20 years, but how long he would serve was unclear. No sentencing date was set.

- AP
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