A court in New Orleans has sentenced the city’s disgraced former mayor, Ray Nagin, to 10 years behind bars following his conviction in February on 20 counts of money-laundering and bribe-taking that spanned both of his terms in office, including during Hurricane Katrina and its chaotic aftermath.
Lawyers for Nagin, 58, had argued that the occasions when he took bribes and kickbacks in the form of cash, free travel or help for his family’s granite countertop business mostly from contractors seeking to get work from the city, had been a “complete aberration” from his usual “otherwise outstanding life”.
But in urging a stiff sentence, prosecutors told the court that there had been at least 22 instances when Nagin had lied on the witness stand during his trial. His performance while testifying could only be summed up by “his astounding unwillingness to accept any responsibility” for what he had done, they said in a court filing.
Judge Ginger Berrigan said the sentence was shorter than it could have been under federal guidelines and that she had taken into account Nagin’s service to New Orleans in other respects and his devotion to his family.
But the sentencing completes an astounding fall from grace for Nagin, a one-time cable television executive who came to office in 2002 promising to sweep away the cronyism and corruption that had characterized city hall in New Orleans. His popularity had already started to wane however when Hurricane Katrina created havoc in 2005 and his stewardship of the recovery effort was widely seen as lacking and erratic.
Meanwhile, he at some point abandoned his pledge of clean government succumbing to the temptations of doling out work and contracts in return for financial reward. Prosecutors said the value of the various bribes and kickbacks came to around $500,000.
“These repeated violations, at the expense of the citizens of New Orleans in a time when honest leadership was needed most, do not deserve leniency,” Matthew M. Coman, an assistant United States attorney, told the court before sentencing.