Ex-New Orleans Mayor Nagin charged with bribery
Ray Nagin, who was elevated to the national stage as the combative mayor of a New Orleans crushed beneath floodwaters spawned by Hurricane Katrina, has been indicted on bribery and related charges, officials announced on Friday.
The charges stem from an ongoing corruption investigation of Nagin's two terms in office beginning in 2002.
Two former city officials and two businessmen, Frank Fradella and Rodney Williams, have pleaded guilty in connection with the scandal and are expected to testify against Nagin.
Among the 21 counts, the federal indictment accuses Nagin of accepting more than $160,000 in bribes and truckloads of free granite for his family business in exchange for promoting the interests of Fradella, who secured millions of dollars in city contract work after the 2005 hurricane.
Nagin, a former cable television executive, was a political novice before being elected to his first term, buoyed by strong support from white voters.
When Katrina hit in 2005, levees broke, and as much as 80 percent of New Orleans was flooded. Nagin was criticized for failing to make sure that the city's most vulnerable residents were evacuated as the storm approached. The Superdome and convention center became scenes of misery for days as thousands, many of them ill or elderly, languished amid shortages of food and water.
Nagin gained a reputation for colorful and sometimes cringe-inducing rhetoric. During an interview shortly after the storm, the Democrat angrily pleaded with federal officials to “get every doggone Greyhound bus line in the country and get their asses moving to New Orleans.”
Strong support from black voters helped Nagin win re-election in 2006, but a surge in violent crime and the budding City Hall corruption probe chipped away at Nagin's popularity.
Nagin has largely steered clear of the political arena since he left office.
Mitch Landrieu, Nagin's successor, said it was a “sad day” for the city.
“Today's indictment of former Mayor Ray Nagin alleges serious violations of the public's trust,” he said in a statement. “Public corruption cannot and will not be tolerated.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.