Ray Nagin’s public service life began with Aaron Neville singing Ave Maria. It will end with Nagin’s indictment — and if convicted — a lot of prison time.
“Under the guidelines, this is enough to put him away for the rest of his life…” said former federal prosecutor Julian Murray, “…if you take half of these things.”
Friday, Nagin was indicted on 21 counts stemming from his time as mayor of the city. Nagin is accused of accepting bribes in exchange for arranging business with the city for his co-conspirators.
Last year, former Nagin associates Frank Fradella and Rodney Williams pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges. But until Friday’s indictment, the two men were accused only of bribing a person identified as “Public Official A”, although attorney for both men all but stated Nagin was the public official in question.
The investigation into Nagin has been ongoing for years, and his indictment comes as no surprise to many people in the city. But it does bring feelings of disappointment for many New Orleanians who voted for Nagin during his first-ever political campaign. Many people felt they could trust the executive from the local cable company, and Nagin enjoyed growing support early in his tenure as mayor.
Nagin’s support grew after he led the city on a series of corruption crackdowns at City Hall. And when he wowed citizens with new, high-tech crime cameras, many people felt they truly elected a man who could move the city into the next millennium.
But most of the arrest at city hall didn’t stick. The high-tech cameras seldom worked. And the man who Nagin hired to work for the city and help lead its tech push, Greg Meffert, would also plead guilty to corruption charges.
Like a lot of people, Hurricane Katrina pushed Nagin to an emotional brink. But unlike most people, the mayor vented on talk radio for all to hear. Then there was his chocolate city comments during the 2006 MLK Day festivities.
Now, New Orleans is preparing to greet the world for the Super Bowl. It will be the city’s first since Katrina. But event organizers like Mary Matalin are worried about what impressions people will take home with them.
“A lot of them still think that the city is under water — or under indictment — one of them,” Matalin said during a Super Bowl luncheon just days before Nagin’s indictment.