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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Mitch Landrieu gives Ferguson statement; demonstrators plan rally in Lee Circle

Posted By on Tue, Nov 25, 2014 at 5:30 PM

Mayor Mitch Landrieu. - CHERYL GERBER
  • Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

Following last night's grand jury decision not to indict Feguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson in the August shooting death of Michael Brown, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu issued the following statement:
"Today I pray for the Brown family and everyone in Ferguson. In the United States we remain divided. Divided by race. Divided by poverty. We live a block away from one another, but are often a world apart.

It is time for each of us, every American, to accept the fact that we must begin to acknowledge and discuss the most difficult issues we face. And we must agree to face them together.

American citizens have the right to protest, but I encourage peaceful protests in these difficult times."
The statement follows dozens of rallies across the U.S. planned in the wake of the decision. Tonight, demonstrators plan to meet at 6 p.m. at Lafayette Square. This Sunday, Nov. 30, the New Orleans chapter of the Black Youth Project 100 hosts a "solidarity gathering addressing the impact of state sanctioned police violence in the black community from Ferguson to New Orleans." The gathering begins at noon at Lee Circle. Attendees are asked to wear black and/or red.

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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Ray Nagin sentenced to 10 years on federal corruption charges

Posted By and on Wed, Jul 9, 2014 at 10:23 AM

Former Mayor Ray Nagin leaves U.S. Federal Court in downtown New Orleans this morning after U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan sentenced him to 10 years at FDC Oakdale Prison in Oakdale, La. Nagin did not speak after the sentence was laid. - ALEX WOODWARD
  • Former Mayor Ray Nagin leaves U.S. Federal Court in downtown New Orleans this morning after U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan sentenced him to 10 years at FDC Oakdale Prison in Oakdale, La. Nagin did not speak after the sentence was laid.

Former Mayor Ray Nagin, who was convicted on 20 of 21 federal charges in February, was sentenced this morming to 10 years in federal prison and ordered to pay $84,000 in restitution. The sentence was handed down by U.S. District Judge Helen "Ginger" Berrigan, who presided over Nagin's trial earlier this year. Before the sentencing, Berrigan denied the defense's request to delay sentencing, saying there was "no real justification" in doing so.

Berrigan recommended the former mayor serve his term at FDC Oakdale Prison in Allen Parish in central Louisiana, where former Rep. William Jefferson is currently serving out his own federal sentence. Nagin must report to Oakdale Sept. 8.

The length of the sentence was somewhat surprising to court watchers; Mark St. Pierre, the City Hall tech vendor who also took a chance on going to trial on federal bribery charges related to Nagin rather than accept a plea deal, had received a 17-year sentence after being convicted on all 53 counts against him. Legal analysts, citing federal guidelines, had predicted sentences of 15 years and up. But Berrigan had wide latitude In sentencing, and she cited Nagin's age (58) as part of her decision.

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Nagin guilty in corruption trial

Posted By and on Wed, Feb 12, 2014 at 1:15 PM

Ray Nagin leaves U.S. Federal Court in downtown New Orleans, surrounded by family and defense attorneys, after being found guilty on 20 of the 21 charges against him. - KEVIN ALLMAN
  • Ray Nagin leaves U.S. Federal Court in downtown New Orleans, surrounded by family and defense attorneys, after being found guilty on 20 of the 21 charges against him.

After six hours of deliberation over two days, the jury in former New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin's federal corruption trial returned this afternoon and found him guilty of conspiracy, money laundering, nine counts of wire fraud, six counts of bribery, and filing false tax returns from 2005-2007.

He was found not guilty of one of six counts of bribery, a $10,000 payment to his sons in 2009.

Prosecuting attorneys left the courthouse shortly after the verdict was read, not stopping to speak with reporters.

Ray Nagin walks with his family and defense team from federal court through Lafayette Square toward the law offices of his defense attorney, Robert Jenkins. - CHERYL GERBER
  • Ray Nagin walks with his family and defense team from federal court through Lafayette Square toward the law offices of his defense attorney, Robert Jenkins.

Nagin left court 90 minutes later with his wife Seletha Nagin and members of his defense team. Rather than leave in cars, Nagin and his defense team walked the two blocks to defense attorney Robert Jenkins' office on St. Charles Avenue. Nagin, looking grim and impassive, ignored shouted questions from reporters, saying only, "I maintain my innocence."

The only reaction the former mayor showed was to a passerby in Lafayette Square, who yelled, "We got your back, Ray!" Nagin briefly looked at the man and nodded his head.

U.S. District Judge Helen G. Berrigan ordered Nagin to home detention. Sentencing will be in Berrigan's courtroom June 11 at 9 a.m.

Below the jump: the statement from U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite's office.

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Monday, August 26, 2013

Video of James O'Keefe/Jim Letten encounter at Tulane University released on O'Keefe's website

Posted By on Mon, Aug 26, 2013 at 12:19 PM

Last month, James O'Keefe of the website Project Veritas was removed from the campus of Tulane University after he and a camera crew attempted to interview former U.S. Attorney Jim Letten. In 2010, Letten recused himself from a federal case that followed an incident in which O'Keefe and his crew posed as telephone repairmen and gained access to Sen. Mary Landrieu's New Orleans office. (The recusal, presumably, was due to the fact that one of O'Keefe's crew was the son of William Flanagan, acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana — Letten's then-counterpart in the western half of the state.)

Later that year, O'Keefe and his partners pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in that case and received probation, community service and minor fines.

Video from that encounter on Tulane's campus has now been posted on the Project Veritas website, in which O'Keefe attempts to give Letten a copy of his new book, Breakthrough, and Letten instead gives O'Keefe a piece of his mind, calling O'Keefe a "hobbit," "spud," "scum" and "asshole." 

"Spud, by the way," Project Veritas notes, "is a derogatory term towards an Irishman."

The video:

Project Veritas is using the video as a fundraising tool. From its website:

“You are a nasty, little, cowardly spud. You are scum. Do you understand?”

That’s what former U.S. Attorney Jim Letten screamed at my colleagues and I while attacking us. Check out our most recent investigation into what constitutes journalism – a question that is now more important than ever.

And if you can, please consider donating $25, $50, $100 or more to help Project Veritas continue to speak truth to power!

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Thursday, June 6, 2013

Judge approves OPP consent decree

Posted By on Thu, Jun 6, 2013 at 3:45 PM

5 p.m. Thursday, June 6 update: The New Orleans Inspector General's office issued a report saying the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office (OPSO) is "adequately funded" and recommends that the city "not appropriate funds for the jail unless OPSO provides it with a detailed, functional budget that identifies the specific jail expenditures the revenues support." Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux said in a statement, "The root cause is a dysfunctional structure that gives OPSO a blank check that the City must sign, and ensures that neither the City nor OPSO can be held wholly accountable for conditions in the Jail. The Jail will remain as it is until that structure is changed.”

U.S. District Judge Lance Africk approved a federal consent decree this afternoon between the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office and the U.S. Department of Justice to address the controversial conditions at Orleans Parish Prison.

The consent decree, to be assessed and overseen by an independent monitor, is welcomed by Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman, though he has repeatedly stressed that his office and the jail are run constitutionally. Gusman instead has claimed that the jail's conditions are due to a lack of funding and leadership from Mayor Mitch Landrieu and the city. Landrieu's office has objected to the consent decree, which his office argues will cost the city $110 million over five years.

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Thursday, May 30, 2013

NOPD consent decree on hold

Posted By on Thu, May 30, 2013 at 4:30 PM

The federal consent decree to monitor the New Orleans Police Department, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Justice, is postponed, again. The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an emergency stay this afternoon. A selection committee meeting previously scheduled for tomorrow to select a monitoring firm has been canceled.

U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan signed the decree in January. Extensions on the monitor selection process and pushback from the city already have delayed the decree. Today's appeals court ruling now "puts it in limbo."

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Friday, April 5, 2013

Separated at birth?

Posted By on Fri, Apr 5, 2013 at 2:55 PM


When was the last time you saw Marlin Gusman and Ray Nagin on the same courthouse steps … or on the same beach in Jamaica? Uh-huh. See where I’m going with this?

It never occurred to me until the sheriff’s bizarre testimony in federal court on Thursday (April 4), and his rant afterward, that he and our former mayor may have been separated at birth. They certainly seem to think alike, if you can call their recent ramblings the product of rational thought.

No need to rehash Nagin’s dementia. It’s a given. But I always figured Gusman was compos mentis. Aloof and prickly at times, yes, but no dummy — and certainly not out of touch with reality.

He sure had me fooled.

What is it about some politicians that makes them retreat into isolation under fire, not just into a political bunker, but also into some alternate version of reality? Richard Nixon in the final days of Watergate comes to mind, as does Nagin after Hurricane Katrina.

Gusman’s performance on the witness stand, after some devastating jailhouse videos were played in federal court two days earlier, put him right up there in that pantheon of paranoia with Tricky Dick and C. Ray.

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Thursday, April 4, 2013

Gusman slams Landrieu on consent decree talks

Posted By on Thu, Apr 4, 2013 at 5:40 PM

Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman

After a six-hour round of testimony in federal court over the Orleans Parish Parish consent decree, Sheriff Marlin Gusman held a brief press conference outside OPP's intake center in the shadow (and noise) of new facility construction. As he did last week following Mayor Mitch Landrieu's emergency City Council meeting on the OPP consent decree, Gusman slammed the mayor and defended the internal reforms at the sheriff's office — and addressed the content of a damning video of inmates at the now-closed House of Detention, which closed last year.

"That video from 2009 revealed in graphic detail the devastating effect of rumbling, outdated jail buildings that are lacking modern security measure," Gusman said. "The four-year-old images you saw reflect the old way of warehousing inmates. ... The actions taken in that video are unacceptable and despicable."

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Friday, March 29, 2013

Nagin, feds file joint motion for delay of trial

Posted By on Fri, Mar 29, 2013 at 12:41 PM

Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and U.S. Attorney Dana Boente mutually filed a request today to delay a criminal trial against Nagin until October. Nagin, who pleaded not guilty to 21 felony counts in February, was originally set to begin trial at the end of April. However, as today's motion says, it's a large and complex case.

From the joint motion:

"The nature of the present prosecution is complex and involves an extensive amount of electronic and documentary discovery. The current posture of the case makes it unreasonable, taking into account the exercise of due diligence, to expect adequate preparation for pretrial proceedings and trial prior to April 29, 2013."

Read the motion to continue trial: Nagin_Delay.pdf

Friday, March 8, 2013

Heavy tolls

Posted By on Fri, Mar 8, 2013 at 1:28 PM

This week saw several bombshells in the local political arena: a Baton Rouge judge nullified the results of last November’s bridge toll referendum, and the feds dropped their years-long investigation into the River Birch landfill and its co-owners, Fred Heebe Jr. and Jim Ward. In a sense, both stories were about tolls.

Let’s take the easy part first.

No matter how you voted last November, there’s no denying the logic of Judge William Morvant’s decision to void the toll referendum’s outcome. The facts are undisputed — indeed, the state didn’t even put on a case in support of the results — and the law is clear.

At least 1,000 voters in Orleans, Jefferson and Plaquemines parishes were given “provisional” ballots that allowed them to vote only in the presidential election. Dozens of local items were on the ballot that day, including the tolls, but provisional voters could not vote in those contests. Many provisional voters were legally registered, but for some reason their names were not on the Election Day rolls. Registrars need to fix that.

Morvant correctly cited state law, which says if it’s impossible to determine the result of an election because qualified voters were denied the right to vote, a judge may nullify that election. Morvant ordered a new referendum on May 4, which happens to be the second weekend of Jazz Fest.

Suffice it to say the turnout on May 4 will be radically different than that of last Nov. 6, and that means toll supporters have an uphill fight. In politics, the easiest thing to do is kill a tax — and many see the bridge toll as a tax. Last November, toll supporters could count on the presidential election to push turnout, but on May 4 they’ll have to drag folks to the polls. They’ll raise fears of bad maintenance, less grass cutting, lights going out on the bridge and the like, but toll opponents have more motivation to turn out: they’re pissed off and they smell blood.

Which brings us to our next topic: the end of the federal River Birch investigation. The immediate reaction in many quarters was that the lengthy probe was a waste of time because it came to naught. That’s not entirely true. While the feds didn’t nab Heebe, the landfill owner bagged a passel of errant federal prosecutors by exposing Sal Perricone and Jan Mann for unprofessional, unethical and possibly illegal actions in connection with their acerbic — and petulant — online commentaries.

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