Monday, January 27, 2014

Jury Screened First Day of Nagin Corruption Trial

by Maniko Barthelemy

Internet Photo of Clarence Ray Nagin, Former New Orleans Mayor
Former New Orleans Mayor Clarence Ray Nagin, who calls Dallas home, is a different man. His confident stride and charismatic body language is gone. Nagin walks with what appears to be a painful limp and he’s back in the city where he was once the boss, only this time Nagin’s a defendant. Nearly 60 potential jurors in the federal government’s corruption trial against Nagin were screened Monday. U.S. District Judge Ginger Berriga asked the men and women, identified only by jury numbers, about their perception of politicians, professional careers and relationship if any to Nagin.

During the lunch rush at Lucy’s restaurant, a few blocks away from the federal courthouse in downtown New Orleans, the Nagin trial was a hot topic. Some said the former mayor’s legal woes continue to hurt New Orleans’ reputation, as the city continues to struggle rebuilding, since Hurricane Katrina. “I remember there was a lot of hope in the city when he was elected,” said Fred Fournet. “A lot of people thought he was really going to be the kind of change we needed to give us a clean slate and it’s unfortunate and if he’s guilty, he should go to jail.”

The 57-year-old who went from cable network management to New Orleans mayor in 2002, is on trial for allegedly orchestrating pay to play politics system, from 2002-2010. The stakes are high. The government’s 21-count indictment accuses Nagin of pocketing more than $300,000 in bribes, a combination of cash, gifts and products from business owners, in exchange for lucrative contracts in the city.
Photo Courtesy of Jeff Ray for Southern Belle Productions
Nagin and his attorney Robert Jenkins were tightlipped but the case is in-depth. A City Hall corruption investigation lead to the charges and some of  Nagin’s associates and aides on the government’s witness list of 45 people have either been convicted or plead guilty as part of a plea deal.

The final jury selection from the pool of 60 will consist of 12 members plus four alternates. Experts predict a jury will be seated Wednesday.  The courthouse is closed Tuesday due to an arctic blast bringing freezing rain to throughout Louisiana. The trial could last up to three weeks.

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