Ray Nagin

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The 2017 New Orleans mayoral race: A familiar but unique election scenario

Posted By on Thu, Jun 22, 2017 at 4:18 PM

Who's moving in next year?
  • Who's moving in next year?

No two elections are alike, but this year’s race for mayor of New Orleans reminds me (so far) of the 2002 mayor’s race. Ray Nagin won that contest, but don’t panic. I don’t see another Nagin in our future. What looks familiar is the slow pace at which the field is taking shape and the lack of a clear front runner, at least as this stage.

Now consider this factoid: the last three mayors didn’t announce their candidacies until shortly before qualifying. That’s what leads some to whisper that we haven’t yet heard the name of the next mayor.

Of course, two of those three late-entry candidates were named Morial and Landrieu. They didn’t need to start early. The third was Nagin, and he won mainly because the eventual front runner, then-state Sen. Paulette Irons, imploded in the final weeks.

I don’t see any of this year’s candidates imploding, but I do see other parallels between this year’s race and the one that gave us Nagin.

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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

CNBC's American Greed season premiere to feature former Mayor Ray Nagin

Posted By on Tue, Mar 29, 2016 at 12:03 PM

The CNBC documentary series American Greed has its season premiere March 31 with an installment titled "Ray Nagin: New Orleans Shakedown."

The hourlong report, which begins at 9 p.m., will focus on Nagin's business dealings, including those with now-disgraced and jailed former tech whiz Greg Meffert. Also in the story: Stone Age Granite & Marble, the granite company Nagin ran with his sons. Nagin, who was convicted on federal corruption charges in February 2014, is serving a 10-year prison term in Texarkana, Texas.

Watch a preview:

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Monday, February 8, 2016

Brass band musicians weigh in on monuments controversy with new Mardi Gras song

Posted By on Mon, Feb 8, 2016 at 2:45 PM

TBC Brass Band featuring Glen David Andrews perform at Gumbo Fest 2015
  • Shalanda Adams
  • TBC Brass Band featuring Glen David Andrews perform at Gumbo Fest 2015

It seems that everyone who lives in New Orleans whether born and raised or just landed here last week has an opinion on the controversy swirling around what should be done (if anything) with the city’s confederate monuments. In the last six months, the city has become racially charged on subject of whether or not several monuments to the confederacy should be removed. Named after Confederate General Robert E. Lee, Lee Circle had long been a thorn in the sides of black New Orleanians and Mayor Mitch Landrieu seized the opportunity during the #BlackLivesMatter campaign sweeping the country to recommend that it and the others be removed.

Around the same time the issue began fomenting in City Hall meetings and on talk radio shows, the local brass band scene began bumping a catchy tune after famed New Orleans trombonist Glen David Andrews dropped in on TBC Brass Band’s regular Wednesday night gig at Celebration Hall. The band had been toying with the groove for some months when Andrews jumped up, grabbed the mic and began improvising lyrics, luring the crowd to join in on call and response:

Wild Magnolia! Wild Magnolia!
Big Chief Bo Dollis! Big Chief Bo Dollis!

The club went wild for the song, buckjumping and singing this new ode to one of the city’s most beloved Mardi Gras Indian Chiefs. TBC knew immediately they had another hit on their hands. They began playing the song at second lines with a plan to formally release it Mardi Gras week. But along the way, the song picked up another lyric that took it deeper from cultural to political waters. Last November at the 2015 Gumbo Fest in Armstrong Park, Andrews joined TBC on stage to sing the song and was inspired to add another line (7:55 minute mark):

“We gonna name Lee Circle… after Allen Toussaint!”

(read the rest below the jump!)

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Monday, July 14, 2014

Y@ Speak: "targeted, smeared, tarnished"

Posted By on Mon, Jul 14, 2014 at 12:46 PM

Or smothered, covered, chunked, diced, peppered and capped. Your Waffle House hashbrown preparation is not far off from how you would describe how you've been treated by the public. This week's Y@ Speak looks at Ray Nagin's sentencing, as well as the return of Sidney Torres, Disney-fication, and the annual Running of the Bulls.

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Thursday, July 10, 2014

'The palace syndrome'

Posted By on Thu, Jul 10, 2014 at 10:26 AM

Ray Nagin leaves Federal Court after U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan sentenced him to 10 years in prison. - ALEX WOODWARD
  • Ray Nagin leaves Federal Court after U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan sentenced him to 10 years in prison.

Politically, the Ray Nagin Era ended on Feb. 6, 2010, with the election of current Mayor Mitch Landrieu. Although Nagin officially had three months left in office at that time, he proved no more capable during his lame duck tenure than he did during his feckless second term, when pretty much everything he touched turned fecal. That includes his ham-fisted attempts to enrich himself when he should have been leading the effort to rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

While Nagin’s political arc ended in 2010, his pathetic personal saga drags on. On Wednesday (July 9), U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan sentenced the former mayor to 10 years in federal prison. A jury found Nagin guilty of 20 counts of corruption — including bribery, money laundering, wire fraud and tax evasion — in February. His wife Seletha has filed for bankruptcy in an attempt to hold on to the family home in Texas.

That’s quite a fall from grace for the guy who rode into office atop a wave of personal and political popularity in 2002. Nagin, who still maintains his innocence despite reams of evidence against him, faces an equally ignominious comedown when he reports to prison on Sept. 8.

Many expressed combinations of shock, disappointment and anger at the sentence that Berrigan imposed. The federal sentencing guidelines, which are not binding, suggested a prison term of more than 15-and-a-half years to 19-plus years.

Before imposing the sentence, Berrigan chided Nagin for abandoning his integrity, but she also made it clear that she intended to depart downward from the guidelines. She did, by more than a third.

Still, as veteran criminal lawyers Joe Raspanti and Donald “Chick” Foret noted, 10 years is a long time.

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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Y@Speak instant reaction: Twitter on Ray Nagin's sentencing

Posted By on Wed, Jul 9, 2014 at 11:08 AM

While legal analysts and talking heads were weighing in on U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan's sentencing of former Mayor Ray Nagin, Twitter was weighing in as well. A sampling of the 140-character reaction:

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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 morning 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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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Nagin sentencing pushed back to July 2

Posted By on Thu, May 29, 2014 at 3:31 PM

Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin leaving U.S. Federal Court in downtown New Orleans Feb. 12, after being found guilty on 20 of the 21 charges against him. His scheduled sentencing on June 11 was pushed back to July 2 after his attorneys requested the delay. - KEVIN ALLMAN
  • Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin leaving U.S. Federal Court in downtown New Orleans Feb. 12, after being found guilty on 20 of the 21 charges against him. His scheduled sentencing on June 11 was pushed back to July 2 after his attorneys requested the delay.

Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin will have a (slightly) happier birthday when he turns 58 on June 11. U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan today granted a request from Nagin lawyer Robert Jenkins to move Nagin’s sentencing date from June 11 to July 2.

But that was the only good news for the former mayor. Earlier in the week, Berrigan had ordered Nagin to forfeit $501,201 to the federal government — and earlier in the month, Nagin’s wife Seletha had filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Texas, where the family lives, in an apparent attempt to keep the Nagins’ home and other assets from being seized by the feds.

In February, a federal jury found Nagin guilty of conspiracy, money laundering, nine counts of wire fraud, six counts of bribery, and filing false tax returns from 2005-2007. He has been on home confinement since. 

Nagin hasn’t spoken publicly since the trial, but continues to tweet, mostly inspirational and religious messages. In the days before the sentencing postponement, he quoted Bishop T.D. Jakes (“Prayer empowers you to find your own way through life without simply reacting to whatever the devil may throw at you”) and the Rev. Joel Osteen (“When life gets tough & things don’t look like they’ll work out, you can live by faith knowing God has already written the final chapter”). He also posted an R.I.P. message for poet Maya Angelou, who died yesterday, and quoted her: “I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.”

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Monday, February 17, 2014

Y@ Speak: extreme makeover

Posted By on Mon, Feb 17, 2014 at 12:05 PM

Pierre the Pelican underwent reconstructive beak surgery to host The Tonight Show, the New Orleans Arena was Christened Smoothie King Center in time for the 2014 NBA All-Star weekend, Nike rolled out "gumbo" shoes, dachsunds replaced horses in races, and Krewe du Vieux revealed true colors — oh, and Ray Nagin may be wearing zebra stripes. That and more in this week's makeover edition of Y@ Speak.

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Friday, February 14, 2014

Interview with the zombie

Posted By on Fri, Feb 14, 2014 at 10:33 AM

Hours after a visibly humbled Ray Nagin took his post-conviction perp walk from the federal courthouse, I had the privilege of sitting down with the guy who actually uncovered the steaming pile of dung that became the case of United States of America v. C. Ray Nagin.

His name is Jason Berry. No, not that Jason Berry (the novelist and op-ed contributor). This is Jason Berry the blogger.

That’s right, a blogger broke open this scandal, on a blog called American Zombie (www.theamericanzombie.com). TV and newspaper reporters have crowed about their “scoops” on this story, but the truth is no one had it before Berry. His work continues on other investigative fronts, but he took time out to chat with me about the Nagin verdict.

Did you feel an element of schadenfreude when the verdict came down? If not, what was your initial reaction?

No. I honestly didn’t feel vindicated in any way. In fact, I felt a little aggravated because I couldn’t wrap my head around the efforts of the defense. I suppose it’s my Catholic upbringing that seeks redemption for even a narcissist like Ray Nagin. There were so many things that could have been addressed in this trial but weren’t. I felt like it was a McDefense instead of the Brigtsen’s five-course meal that it should have been. Having said that, I don’t think there is any way to argue with credit card statements, checks, and bank statements, which leads me to wonder why Nagin had [defense attorney Robert] Jenkins take the case to trial in the first place. I do think Nagin’s prosecution and conviction are important for our city, though, and overall I’m relieved it actually happened.

You were onto this scandal long before anyone else in the media, yet you got very little credit for that. How did that make you feel as you watched the trial?

I’d be lying if I said it didn’t bother me. I sat through about 70 percent of the trial and I watched other journalists being praised by the prosecution for at least a few stories I know I broke, namely the granite deal between Stone Age and Cornerstone, the HSOA subsidiary, and the existence of the credit card Meffert was using under Netmethods’ name. Perhaps I’m taking it too personally, but I think there was an effort to diminish my role by both the prosecution and other journalistic entities. From the prosecution side I understand that the last word they wanted coming up in this trial was “blogger” in the wake of the commenting scandal, but on the journalistic side it’s tough to read commentary that dismisses and diminishes the work on the blog. Yes, much of my work was sourced anonymously, but this is not uncommon in journalistic endeavors, and ultimately the accuracy of the work should speak for itself. I’m a big defender of anonymity, but I suppose that’s another argument altogether.

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