NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin — who swept into office on promises of reform but saw the city crumble under the weight of Hurricane Katrina and his own corruption investigation — will learn Wednesday how much time he will serve for convictions of bribery, money laundering and other crimes.
Nagin, 58, was convicted Feb. 12 of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars from businessmen who wanted work from the city or Nagin’s support for projects — both before and after Katrina. The bribes came in the form of money, free vacation trips and truckloads of free granite for the mayor’s family business.
Prosecutors are pressing for a stiff sentence of more than 20 years, citing the seriousness of the crimes and the former mayor’s repeated denials. Nagin’s defense attorney says that amounts to a “virtual life sentence” and would deprive his teenage daughter of her father.
It was unclear whether Nagin would speak Wednesday when he appears before U.S. District Judge Helen Berrigan with defense attorney Robert Jenkins.
Nagin was cable television executive and political newcomer when he won election as mayor in 2002. He cast himself as a reformer and announced crackdowns on corruption in the city’s automobile-inspection and taxi-permit programs. But federal prosecutors say his own corrupt acts began during his first term, continued through the Katrina catastrophe and flourished in his second term.
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 stepped-up federal response in the days after levee breaches during Katrina flooded most of the city. As billions of federal dollars poured into the city to help rebuild neighborhoods and strengthen flood protection, he opposed several plans — including one developed by an urban development consultant he hired — to reshape New Orleans.
He also drew notoriety for impolitic remarks, such as the racially charged “New Orleans will be chocolate again” 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 plunging approval ratings and the stricken city’s recovery struggles probably would have dampened his prospects for a third term even if he could have run again.
In his final years in office, he became distant from the City Council, and polls showed public confidence in his administration had sharply declined.
He was succeeded in 2010 by Mitch Landrieu.