The former mayor of New Orleans Ray Nagin has been convicted of six counts of bribery, nine counts of wire fraud, one count of money laundering conspiracy, and four counts of filing false tax returns.. Sadly, he was propelled into office campaigning against corruption in politics. He became a household name during the Hurricane Katrina disaster which flooded more than three-quarters of the city in 2006. He asked the public to send money to assist those ravaged by the storm. To quell concerns of those potential donors questioning if the money would reach those in need, he responded - “Google me. You’re not going to find any of that [theftor diversion of funds] in my record.”. He ultimately secured billions of federal dollars to reconstruct the area. The bribery counts included incidents both before and after Katrina hit.
At the trial, many of the witnesses were business people who provided the bribes. They were convicted of lesser charges and promised leniency on their sentences in exchange for testimony against Nagin. This arrangement is a classic plea bargain
Nagin took the stand and testified in his defense. He denied taking bribes and said that he only approved contracts from the lowest bidders, as required by law. The jury rejected this testimony. Jurors have the option of accepting or rejecting all or any part of a witness’ testimony, as they fit after analyzing the witness’ credibility.
The evidence established that the former official accepted more than $200,000 worth of gifts from businesses buying for lucrative city contracts and exemptions from regulations. Among the items received were checks, cash, personal services, a Hawaiian vacation, private jet travel, limousines, cellular phone service, and granite for a business the mayor owns with his sons.
Bribery is a serious crime that includes accepting money and/or gifts in exchange for misusing one’s official position. Specifically, the goods are given in exchange for an agreement or understanding that such public servant’s vote, opinion, judgment, action, decision or exercise of discretion in matters within his official decision-making authority will be favorable to the donor.
Bribes are accepted by elected officials constitute a significant breach of the trust voters placed in that officer.
The crime of wire fraud consists of participating in a fraudulent scheme using wired communication systems including telephone networks and internet access.
Money laundering involves a scheme to transform proceeds of criminal activity (such as money received from bribery) into seemingly legitimate funds. Conspiracy is the crime of contracting with another person to jointly commit a crime.
The crime of filing a false tax return, as the name suggests, consists of submitting to government a tax return that contains information the taxpayer knows is inaccurate. When completing tax returns, we are required to include all income “however derived”. Apparently Nagin did not disclose on his return the income he received as bribes.
Nagin faces up to 20 years in prison. The date for sentencing has not yet been set. In the interim a presentence investigation will be prepared. This is a report, usually prepared by a probation officer who investigates the defendant’s background. The report informs the judge about various aspects of a convicted defendant’s life including family background, education, employment history, criminal record, health, licenses and skills, prior treatment for such things as alcohol, drugs, and anger management, prior sentences served, and any other relevant circumstances. The judge will utilize that information when determining what the appropriate sentence should be.
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If you were the judge, what sentence would you impose? Why?