Judge delays former New Orleans mayor's corruption trial

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 24, 2013 5:10 PM

By Kathy Finn

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - A federal judge on Thursday delayed for three months the corruption trial of former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, who led the city during the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Nagin, 57, a former cable TV executive best known for his fiery denunciation of the federal government's response in the hurricane aftermath, was scheduled to go on trial next week on 21 counts of corruption. Charges include bribery, wire fraud, conspiracy, money laundering and filing false tax returns.

U.S. District Judge Helen Berrigan said she agreed to the delay to give defense lawyers more time to prepare a rebuttal of the sweeping allegations, which involve six co-conspirators and a large volume of documents.

The charges, which Nagin has denied, span his tenure as mayor from 2002 to 2010. Nagin's trial now is scheduled to begin January 27, 2014.

During a long federal investigation, a string of Nagin's former associates signed agreements with the government and are expected to testify against him.

A grand jury indictment returned in January said Nagin accepted gifts that included more than $200,000 in cash and wire transfers, free vacations for him and his family, and free shipments of granite delivered to a countertop installation company owned by Nagin and his two sons.

Nagin, who now resides in Frisco, Texas, near Dallas, has filed a series of motions in recent weeks asking that the trial be delayed or the charges dismissed.

His attorney, Robert Jenkins, filed one request for a delay based on misconduct by prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Orleans that led another judge to call for a new trial in a separate case. Berrigan denied that request for a delay on September 27.

A New Orleans legal expert said Nagin has a difficult task disputing the allegations leveled by former associates.

"You have these businessmen who pled guilty to giving the mayor gifts and cash in return for something," said Tania Tetlow, a Tulane University law professor and former assistant U.S. attorney who has followed the case. "They have more credibility than the typical cooperating witness."

(Editing by Karen Brooks and Gunna Dickson)