Closing arguments heard in former New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin graft case
Former mayor Ray Nagin accused of plundering post-Katrina city and could get 20 years in prison if convicted
The prosecution has painted him as a corrupt, greedy individual who too unfair advantage of a city still reeling form the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Defense attorney discounted the credibility of witnesses who cut deals in order to speak out against him. Former New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin could get 20 years in prison if convicted on numerous graft charges.
Former New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin could get 20 years in prison if convicted on numerous graft charges.
The jury adjourned after deliberating for about three hours without reaching a verdict and will resume discussions later this week.
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Nagin, along with several members of his family seated in the packed courtroom, listened as prosecutor Richard Pickens portrayed him as nearly broke from financing his sons' struggling granite countertop business, turning for help to contractors who needed his assistance to get city business.
"You saw how a mayor on the take operates," Pickens told the jury during his closing statements.
Five separate corruption schemes that Nagin allegedly used with varying casts of characters who reportedly paid cash bribes and provided other favors including free vacations to Hawaii and Jamaica, private jet trips to Chicago and Las Vegas and parties for Nagin and his family, all with a combined value of more than $500,000.
The jury heard from some 30 prosecution witnesses during the 10 day trial, including a city hall insider and contractors who earlier pleaded guilty to bribing public officials and are awaiting sentencing.
"You saw how (Nagin) used the power and authority of a high public office to extract payoffs from contractors," Pickens told the jury.
Nagin also allegedly traded city dollars for cell phones for his family. He's accused of receiving truckloads of granite and money from a consulting contract after he left office in exchange for favors.
Bank transactions for the Nagins' company, proved several times the account showed a negative balance immediately before deposits -- coinciding with alleged bribes landed in the account.
Email exchanges were shown between Nagin and a businessman who allegedly paid $23,000 to provide a private jet for the Nagin family for a shopping trip to New York City.
"Thanks a bunch. You the man!" Nagin wrote in an email to the man immediately after the jet was reserved.
Nagin's attorney Robert Jenkins countered by arguing prosecutors relied heavily on witnesses who testified against Nagin in hopes of gaining lighter sentences for their crimes.
"It goes to their credibility," Jenkins said. One contractor charged with separate crimes in Texas had his case consolidated with the Nagin matter. "He got a sweet deal," Jenkins said.
Nagin's attorney said it defies logic to think the mayor helped steer huge amounts of city business to contractors for relatively small returns. "If I'm helping a guy get millions, I'm only going to get $50,000 of it? That doesn't make sense," Jenkins said.
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