Was it the best or worst decision of his life? In a matter of days, ex-New Orleans Mayor Clarence Ray Nagin finds out if taking the stand in the government’s corruption case against him helped or hurt his defense. Nagin faces at least 20 years in prison, if found guilty of bribery, money laundering, fraud, tax evasion, and a number of other charges that add up to a 21-count indictment and hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of free travel, cash and granite to support Stone Age, LLC, his family business. Friday, after spending nearly eight hours on the stand answering and deflecting questions from assistant U.S. Attorney, Matthew Coman, Nagin returned to the defendant’s table saying “thank you Jesus.”
Monday morning, Robert Jenkins will reiterate his client’s innocence. Jenkins has been holding steady to focusing on the credibility of the government's witnesses, the absence of any video tapes, wires or other hard evidence that shows Nagin is unquestionably guilty. “He may have done something unethical but not criminal,” said Jenkins. Coman is expected to highlight what the government sees as a strong case for a conviction. “They wanted his power and he wanted their money,” said Cowman, to the jury, the first day of the trial. He maintains Nagin’s questionable tax reporting, slick business deals, testimony from IRS agents, the corroborating testimony of men who are now convicted felons but used to enjoy the relationship with Nagin and its rewards of millions of dollars in city contracts, as well as questionable business deals involving Nagin’s sons Jeremy and Jarin, all point to one conclusion; guilty.
For nearly two weeks, the trial has been a tale of two Nagin’s. From the perspectives of those who worked closely with him as city employees and those the government charges conspired with him, the jury has a lot to sort out. Nagin spent two days on the stand denying accepting bribes, blaming any tax reporting issues on his accountant, explaining how his personal family outings blurred the lines a lot between city business and pleasure. “Do you ever plan to accept responsibility for your actions?” asked Coman. “I always take responsibility for things,” Nagin replied.
Nagin, a Democrat, served from 2002-2010. Many of the people in the packed courtroom were voters who said they came to the trial because they felt disappointed and wanted to see if he had any remorse. “It’s a shame he ran on a platform of change and we really believed he was different but in the end it looks like he became corrupt,” said a man who didn’t want to be identified.