CORRUPTION CHARGES: Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin Found Guilty
(CNN) — Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin was found guilty of federal corruption charges Wednesday after a two-week trial.
Nagin, famous for his desperate pleas for help during Hurricane Katrina, was found guilty of 20 of the 21 counts of bribery, money laundering, fraud and filing false tax returns, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The sole acquittal was on one of the bribery counts.
Prosecutors had accused Nagin of being at the center of a kickback scheme in which he allegedly received checks, cash, wire transfers, personal services and free travel from businessmen seeking contracts and favorable treatment from the city.
Nagin left office in 2010, after two terms in office. There was no immediate reaction to the verdict from the former mayor, who had insisted on his innocence, or his lawyers.
The charges detailed more than $200,000 in bribes, his family members allegedly received a vacation in Hawaii; first-class airfare to Jamaica; private jet travel and a limousine for New York City; and cellular phone service.
In exchange, businesses that coughed up cash for Nagin and his family won more than $5 million in city contracts, according to a January 2013 indictment.
The onetime cable-television executive was elected mayor in 2002 and was in office when the massive Katrina slammed ashore just east of New Orleans on August 29, 2005. The storm flooded more than three-fourths of the low-lying city and left more than 1,800 dead, most of them in across Louisiana.
Supporters credited Nagin’s sometimes-profane demands for aid from Washington with helping reveal the botched federal response to the storm — a fiasco that embarrassed the George W. Bush administration and led to billions of federal dollars being poured into Gulf Coast reconstruction efforts.
But Nagin also had his critics: A congressional committee criticized him for delaying evacuation orders, and his frantic description of post-storm New Orleans as a violent wasteland with up to 10,000 dead turned out to be greatly exaggerated.
As he sought re-election in 2006, with much of the city’s African-American population displaced by storm damage, Nagin was blasted for insisting that New Orleans would remain a “chocolate” city.
Nagin won a second term despite the controversies, but left office with his approval ratings in the cellar and told CNN his career in public office was over.