'Katrina-era' New Orleans mayor sentenced to 10 years
Published 10/07/2014 | 02:30
Former New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for bribery, money laundering and other corruption that spanned his two terms as mayor – including the chaotic years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city in 2005.
Nagin was convicted in February of accepting around $500,000 (€366,000) from businessmen who wanted work from the city or Nagin's support for various projects. The bribes came in the form of money, free holidays and truckloads of free granite for his family business.
Until his indictment in 2013, he was perhaps best known for a widely heard radio interview in which he angrily, and sometimes profanely, asked for a stepped-up federal response in the days after levee breaches flooded most of the city during Katrina.
The 58-year-old Democrat had defiantly denied any wrongdoing after his indictment and during his February trial.
Moments before sentencing, a subdued Nagin made a brief statement, thanking the judge for her professionalism. He made no apologies. "I trust that God's going to work all this out," he said.
After the sentencing Nagin smiled and hugged supporters as he walked out of the courtroom with his wife, Seletha, and other family members and friends. He is scheduled to report to the federal prison in Louisiana in September.
The judge noted character references showing him to be a devoted son, husband and father. And she said, despite his crimes, Nagin displayed "a genuine if all too infrequent" desire to help New Orleans and its residents after Katrina.
Nagin was a political newcomer when he won election as New Orleans mayor, succeeding Marc Morial in 2002. He cast himself as a reformer and announced crackdowns on corruption in the city's automobile-inspection and taxi-permit programmes. But federal prosecutors say his own corrupt acts began during his first term, continued through the Katrina catastrophe and flourished in his second term.
He drew notoriety for impolitic remarks, such as the racially charged "New Orleans will be chocolate again" after the city's African-American population plummeted post-Katrina and his comment that a growing violent crime problem "keeps the New Orleans brand out there".
Elected in 2002 with strong support from the business community and white voters, Nagin won re-election in 2006 with a campaign that sometimes played on fears among black voters that they were being left out of the city's spotty recovery.
He was limited by law to two consecutive terms but a third term would have been unlikely, giving plunging approval ratings and the city's recovery struggles. He was succeeded in 2010 by Mitch Landrieu.