New Orleans ex-mayor denies $200K bribery

| Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013, 8:57 p.m.

NEW ORLEANS — Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to charges he accepted more than $200,000 in bribes plus free trips and other gratuities in exchange for helping contractors secure millions of dollars in work for the city.

U.S. Magistrate Sally Shushan set Nagin's bond at $100,000 during his arraignment on charges that include bribery, wire fraud and filing false tax returns. She also set a preliminary trial date of April 29.

The charges against Nagin are the product of a City Hall corruption investigation, which has resulted in guilty pleas by two former city officials and two businessmen and a prison sentence for a former city vendor.

His arraignment marked a rare public appearance for Nagin, who now lives in Frisco, Texas. He has kept a low-profile since he left office in 2010.

Nagin didn't answer reporters' questions as he entered and left the courthouse, trailed by a gaggle of television cameras and news photographers. He didn't say much in court, either, except for responding to a series of routine yes-or-no questions from Shushan and uttering the words “not guilty” 21 times — once for each count he faces.

His popularity steadily waned in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 as the city struggled to recover from the epic flooding unleashed by broken levees.

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