Thursday, January 30, 2014

First Witness in Nagin Corruption Trial Outlines Pay-to-Play Politics

by Maniko Barthelemy

How do you go from grossing $120,000 in business contracts to more than $2.6 million in three years? The answer, as one man put it is all about connections and $70,000 in bribes. “The mayor said he’d take care of it and he did,” said Rodney Williams, the former president of Three Fold Consultants, a New Orleans engineering firm.
Williams, a star witness for the federal government, is facing three years in prison for pleading guilty to bribing ex-New Orleans Mayor Clarence Ray Nagin. To ensure the jury took every word he spoke seriously, throughout his 90-minutes on the stand, Williams routinely looked directly at the jury as he clarified why, where and how he paid to play politics in New Orleans. “We felt that was our way of getting in and doing more city contracts,” said Williams. From 2007 through 2011, Williams was granted lucrative no-bid construction contracts he said were tied directly to his payments to Nagin.

The prosecution believes their case for a conviction is solid. In addition to outlining facts, figures, and connecting the dots leading from the mayor’s office to witnesses like Williams, they expect testimony of convicted contractor Frank Fradella, as well as Nagin's former Chief Technology Officer, Greg Meffert, will prove Nagin’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. “It’s time for the defendant to be held personally accountable for his own criminal conduct,” said assistant U.S. attorney, Matthew Coman.
The 21-count indictment against Nagin charges him with tax fraud, wire fraud, and corruption, totaling more than $300,000 in kickbacks. Robert Jenkins, Nagin’s attorney, told jurors the former mayor gave full financial disclosure in all of his tax documents and any mistakes that may appear suspicious, fall at the hands of Nagin’s accountant. As for the government’s reliability on star witnesses, Jenkins sees them as a glimpse into a weak case. “The case fails because there is a credibility issue,” said Jenkins. “All these guys have baggage and they need help from the government.”

Both sides continue proving their case Friday morning. Williams returns to the stand where he’ll be cross examined by Jenkins. He’s thankful part of this serious phase of his legal troubles is almost finished. “I’ve done something I’m not proud of and it’s been a long time dealing with it and I didn’t want to prolong it,” said Williams. “I’m glad it’s over.”

The case is expected to last nearly three weeks. Nine white men, four white women, one African-American woman and two Asian men make up the 16-member jury, which includes four alternate jurors.







No comments:

Post a Comment