NEW ORLEANS (AP) â€” With closing arguments set for Monday, prosecutors and defense lawyers were preparing to put their final spin on evidence in former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin’s federal corruption trial.
Nagin testified last week that key witnesses lied and prosecutors misinterpreted evidence including emails, checks and pages from his appointment calendar linking him to businessmen who said they bribed him.
The defense repeatedly said prosecutors overstated Nagin’s authority to approve contracts. His lawyer said there is no proof money and material given to the granite business owned by Nagin and his sons was tied to city business.
Charges in Nagin’s 21-count indictment include bribery, fraud and money laundering. The Democrat left office in 2010 after eight years that included the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.
Prosecutors say he took hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of bribes including money, free travel and granite for Stone Age LLC, a family granite business.
They allege the corruption spanned the time before and after Hurricane Katrina hit in August 2005, when levee failures led to catastrophic flooding.
The charges resulted from a City Hall corruption investigation that had resulted in several convictions or guilty pleas by former Nagin associates by the time trial started, with jury selection, on Jan. 27.
Businessmen Frank Fradella and Rodney Williams, both awaiting sentencing for their roles in separate bribery schemes alleged in the case, each testified that they bribed Nagin.
Nagin’s former technology chief, Greg Meffert, who also is awaiting sentencing after a plea deal, told jurors he helped another businessman, Mark St. Pierre, bribe Nagin with lavish vacation trips. St. Pierre did not testify. He was convicted in the case in 2011.
Nagin said he did not to know his vacation trips to Jamaica and Hawaii were paid for by St. Pierre. He also said he wasn’t told that a family trip to New York was paid for by a movie theater owner who, prosecutors said, received help with a city tax issue after Katrina wiped out the theater.
The charges against Nagin include one overarching conspiracy count along with six counts of bribery, nine counts of wire fraud, one count of money laundering conspiracy and four counts of filing false tax returns.