Was former Mayor Ray Nagin corruptible from the get-go, or did he lose his way over time in a series of small missteps that escalated into the bribery schemes alleged in the 21-count federal indictment leveled against him? Gambit contributor Stephanie Grace and political editor Clancy DuBos offer different views — but perhaps each is correct, in its own way. Read both viewpoints here:
By His Own Rules
Nearly a dozen action-packed years later, it’s a little hard to put into words just how exhilarating disgraced former mayor Ray Nagin’s breakthrough moment was, and why.
In hindsight, his casually blunt assertion that “Man, I think we need to sell that sucker” — the “sucker” being the city-owned Louis Armstrong International Airport — was a silly, impractical and poorly thought out scheme to raise up to a billion dollars for badly needed infrastructure improvements. Like so many of Nagin’s big, bold ideas, it went nowhere.
But back when Nagin first uttered those words, well into a long, bureaucratic candidate debate leading up to the 2002 mayoral election, the bleary crowd jolted awake. Strange as it now seems, that zinger, as much as anything else, helped launch the little-known cable TV executive’s improbable journey from also-ran to mayor — and now, to accused crook.
It wasn’t just that Nagin was funny and charming; he surely was both. What clicked was that he was different.
U.S. District Court Judge Helen Berrigan ordered an arraignment and initial court appearance for former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin pushed back several weeks. The hearing, originally scheduled for Jan. 31, is now scheduled for Feb. 20, at 2 p.m., before federal Magistrate Judge Sally Shushan.
Last week, a federal grand jury returned a 21-count indictment against Nagin, following a lengthy investigation into allegations that the former mayor accepted bribes in return for preferable treatment from City Hall during his 2002-2010 tenure. The indictment alleges that Nagin accepted more than $200,000, as well as vacations, from local businessmen, paying them back with lucrative city contracts. He has also been charged with money laundering and filing false tax returns, both related to the alleged bribes.
Gambit political contributor Stephanie Grace was on last night's Informed Sources on WYES-TV, discussing the indictment of former mayor Ray Nagin with host Larry Lorenz, producer Errol Laborde and journalist Dawn Ostrom. The show isn't embeddable, but you can watch it on WYES' website.
Now, finally, that clueless, narcissistic poseur will be called to account for some of his many sins against New Orleans.
Oh, happy day.
According to the 21-count indictment, Nagin took more than $200,000 in bribes from at least four city contractors to whom he steered recovery contracts after Hurricane Katrina. All four of them — Rodney Williams, Frank Fradella, Mark St. Pierre and Aaron Bennett — have already been convicted on various federal charges, some of them linked directly to Nagin’s indictment. He also allegedly got free private jet travel and limos (collectively worth more than $20,000) from Businessman A in exchange for favorable tax treatment by City Hall.
C. RAY NAGIN, FORMER NEW ORLEANS MAYOR, INDICTED ON FEDERAL BRIBERY, HONEST SERVICES WIRE FRAUD, MONEY LAUNDERING, CONSPIRACY, AND TAX CHARGES
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - C. Ray Nagin, 56, a resident of Frisco, Texas and formerly the Mayor of New Orleans, was charged in a 21-count indictment with bribery, honest service wire fraud, money laundering and conspiracy, and filing false tax returns, announced U.S. Attorney Dana J. Boente, FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Michael Anderson, and IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent-in-Charge James Lee.
According to today’s federal grand jury indictment, between December 2004 and the present, Nagin and several others participated in a conspiracy to commit bribery and honest services wire fraud. The indictment alleges that Nagin, in his role as chief executive, devised a scheme to defraud the City of New Orleans and its citizens of his honest services through bribery and a kickback scheme, whereby Nagin used his public office and official capacity to provide favorable treatment, including awarding contracts, that benefitted business and financial interest of individuals providing him with bribes and kickbacks in the form of checks, cash, granite inventory, wire transfers, personal services, and free travel. The indictment charges Nagin with accepting numerous bribes and payoffs from consultants and contractors, money laundering conspiracy, and filing false tax returns for the years 2005 to 2008.
“This office will continue its history of investigating and prosecuting public corruption” said Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana. “This is an important part of the office’s mission to serve the citizens of the Eastern District of Louisiana and make certain they have honest public officials.”
Nagin is accused of accepting bribes from city contractors Frank Fradella, of Home Solutions of America and Home Solutions Restoration of Louisiana, and Rodney Williams, of Three Fold Constultants, who were recently convicted of bribing "Public Official A" — Nagin, as the federal government officially acknowledged today — in exchange for millions in city contracts. Nagin is also charged with receiving bribes from city contractors Mark St. Pierre and Aaron Bennett, both convicted of bribing other public officials, and a movie theater owner identified only as "Businessman A."
Fradella pleaded guilty to paying Nagin $50,000 in 2008 after his company had been awarded more than $4 million in construction work at Louis Armstrong International Airport and sidewalk repair in the French Quarter. Fradella allegedly funneled the money to Nagin through a trust fund controlled by Michael McGrath, then Home Solutions of America's chairman. Fradella also admitted to providing free granite inventory to Stone Age, LLC, a company owned by Nagin and his sons, Jeremy and Jarin.
(More after the jump)
Download the complete 25-page indictment United States of America v. C. Ray Nagin a/k/a "Mayor Nagin":
"I personally witnessed him at arm’s length, literally two or three weeks away up in Baton Rouge, two weeks after the storm. He just collapsed onto the ground and leaned up against the wall and said, ‘I did not sign up for this shit.’ And he said it again. ‘I did not sign up for this stuff.’ And I’m thinking, wait a minute, you’re the mayor. You absolutely signed up for whatever comes. But that was his attitude. It was all about him."
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