There must not be two standards of justice as politicians must pay for their crimes just as ordinary citizens. Mr. Nagin was convicted on 20 federal charges, including crimes such as accepting bribes from a variety of businessmen and city contractors. According to federal sentencing guidelines, Nagin could face 20 years or more in prison for these crimes.
In recent weeks, Judge Berrigan has received over 30 letters from Nagin’s friends and family members asking for leniency. Today, the Judge received emotional appeals from Nagin’s wife and sons, demanding that the former Mayor be set free. They claim that the federal government improperly prosecuted an innocent man.
In contrast, Ray Nagin was prosecuted because he committed crimes over the span of several years. These were not innocent mistakes, but a disturbing and disgusting pattern of behavior. The people of New Orleans deserve justice for the crimes that Nagin committed.
During his two terms in office, the Mayor not only stole money, but he also stole the hopes and aspirations of the citizens of New Orleans. His corruption retarded the recovery of the city after Hurricane Katrina.
His utter incompetence was compounded by his immense greed. Prosecutors claim that Nagin must return over $500,000 in ill-gotten gains. He received free granite for his family business, free air fare, free vacations to exotic locales, and free lawn care for his home, thousands of dollars in payoffs, and corrupt consulting contracts.
He was not concerned with the recovery of New Orleans; he was concerned with cashing in on his position. If he really cared about his city, he would not have spent so much time in the suburbs of Dallas as his city fought to survive. In an effort to win re-election, he played the race card and appealed to African American voters to keep New Orleans a “chocolate city.” This racist tactic helped Nagin win re-election, but it divided New Orleans. He did not care about the damage he did to New Orleans, he only wanted another four years in office to commit crimes.
The most telling incident occurred right after his re-election, in January of 2007, while the city of New Orleans was in the midst of a murder spree. Over 5,000 citizens descended on City Hall to demand action to combat violent crime. This protest was an emotional outburst from the people of New Orleans, disgusted with the rampant crime in their city. The march concluded at City Hall with speeches from a variety of community leaders. On the stage that day was Mayor Nagin. Amazingly, he was indifferent to the cries of his constituents and spent his time glued to his cell phone texting associates in an effort to lure more business to his family’s granite company.
In 2002, New Orleans thought they had elected a “businessman” to clean up corruption, but, in the end, they only elected an arrogant crook. He had no managerial, business or political skills. At Cox Cable, he presided over a monopoly and was not faced with the type of challenges that he faced at City Hall.
He was ill equipped to lead New Orleans and his shortcomings were only exacerbated by the team of incompetent subordinates that he hired in his administration. From his Cox Cable cronies to the pathetic Kimberly Williamson Butler to the crooked “Deputy” Mayor Greg Meffert to the buffoonish Recovery Czar Ed Blakely, Nagin was surrounded by like-minded people, ineffectual and often dishonest.
History will record that Nagin was the first Mayor of New Orleans to be indicted. He was not targeted as he was only prosecuted due to his actions in office. He did not display a desire for public service, only for personal financial gain.
Hopefully, Judge Berrigan will not be swayed by the emotional appeals of his family members. Hopefully, she will conform to the sentencing guidelines and force the Mayor to pay for his many crimes.
Besides serving justice, imprisoning Ray Nagin will serve as a reminder and deterrent to other elected officials. It will reinforce the vital message that crime does not pay and that public servants are not allowed to enrich themselves while in office.
With its former Mayor in prison where he belongs, New Orleans will not only take an important step forward in its ongoing recovery from Hurricane Katrina, but it will also finally close the book on the sad and sordid chapter of the Nagin years.