Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

National news

February 13, 2014

Ex-New Orleans mayor convicted of taking bribes

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, best remembered for his impassioned pleas for help after the levees broke during Hurricane Katrina, was convicted Wednesday of accepting bribes in exchange for helping businessmen secure millions of dollars in city work, including after the devastating storm.

The federal jury found Nagin guilty of 20 of 21 counts against him, involving a string of crimes before and after the storm. He sat quietly at the defense table after the verdict was read and his wife, Seletha, was being consoled in the front row.

Before the verdict, the 57-year-old Ray Nagin said outside the New Orleans courtroom: "I've been at peace with this for a long time. I'm good."

Sentencing was set for June 11, Nagin's 58th birthday. Nagin left the courthouse more than an hour after the verdict was read, and after U.S. District Judge Helen Berrigan ordered that his bond be modified to provide for "additional conditions of electronic monitoring and home confinement."

The Democrat, who left office in 2010 after eight years, was indicted in January 2013 on charges he accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes — money, free vacation trips and truckloads of free granite for his family business — from businessmen who wanted work from the city or Nagin's support for various projects.

The granite and some of the money came from developer Frank Fradella. More money came from another contractor, Rodney Williams, for Nagin's help in securing city contracts. Convicted former city vendor Mark St. Pierre, who got a no-bid contract with the city in Nagin's first term, provided trips to Jamaica and Hawaii.

A movie theater owner seeking tax breaks provided a trip to New York, prosecutors said. In a conspiracy count, prosecutors also said Nagin sought and got granite work for his business from a major retailer, identified in court as The Home Depot, while helping the retailer work out details related to the opening of a new store in post-Katrina new Orleans. The company was not accused of any wrongdoing.

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