Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

National news

February 7, 2014

Ex-Orleans mayor tells jury he took no payoffs

(Continued)

"If anything, Greg said he was paying for" the trip, Nagin said under questioning from his lawyer, Robert Jenkins. He was referring to Greg Meffert, his former technology chief.

Meffert has pleaded guilty in the case and awaits sentencing. He testified last week that Nagin was aware that Mark St. Pierre and his NetMethods company paid for the Hawaii trip. St. Pierre was convicted of bribery and other charges in 2011.

Nagin sought to put a more innocent spin on what prosecutors have tried to establish as evidence of his corruption. He accepted a free private plane ride to Chicago for a Saints playoff game in early 2007 because flights out of New Orleans were still hard to arrange in the months after Katrina hit. He insisted that no business was discussed on the private plane of Frank Fradella, nor was it discussed in Chicago.

"Everybody was excited about the Saints," Nagin said.

Nagin's indictment says the flight was a "payoff" from Fradella, who has pleaded guilty in the case and testified that he bribed Nagin with cash and free granite for a foundering Nagin family granite business.

Nagin said the city paid for the flight after the trip was revealed in a newspaper article. "There was a lot of hoopla about the flight, for some reason," he said. He said it was proper for the city to cover the cost because he performed official functions, such as meeting with the mayor of Chicago.

Nagin, at various times, acknowledged payments from Fradella's and Williams' companies to Stone Age, but said that what prosecutors call bribes were actually investments — in each case after Stone Age did work for the businessmen.

"Whatever he was doing with Stone Age had no implications or would not influence me one iota with the city of New Orleans," Nagin said of Fradella, during early questioning from Jenkins.

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