Ex-Southern Baptist head writes on Nagin's behalf

AP News
Posted: Jun 20, 2014 7:23 PM

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A former president of the nation's Southern Baptists is among more than two dozen people who have written a federal judge seeking leniency for former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, who is to be sentenced on corruption charges July 9.

The Rev. Fred Luter says Hurricane Katrina profoundly affected Nagin, a Democrat who served from 2001-2010.

"He is a good and decent man who made some unwise choices and decisions during a very difficult and traumatic time in his personal and professional life," Luter wrote in one of numerous letters made public Friday.

Nagin family members and some former members of his staff also wrote on his behalf. The letters include a hand-printed note from a grandson of Nagin.

Nagin, 58, was convicted in February on 20 criminal counts including bribery, fraud and money laundering. Prosecutors said the crimes occurred before and after Katrina struck in 2005.

Some of the charges carry possible 20-year sentences. Prosecutors have not made their sentencing recommendations public, but a defense motion filed recently indicates prosecutors have recommended a sentence of 20 years.

The letters were made public by U.S. District Judge Helen Berrigan, who allowed them to be reviewed in her chambers.

Luter, a New Orleans minister, was elected as the first African-American president of the 15.7 million-member Southern Baptist Convention in 2012.

"I have known Ray Nagin since high school," he said in his letter to Berrigan.

He went on to say that Katrina affected Nagin "spiritually, emotionally, and mentally" when it hit in 2005.

Levee failures during the storm caused catastrophic flooding and led to Nagin's emotional and sometimes profane plea for faster federal help on a widely heard radio broadcast.

A note from grandson Cino Nagin, whose age was unavailable, was hand-scrawled on wide-ruled tablet paper that also included decorations in crayon. "I have the best grandfather in the whole world," the note said.