NEW ORLEANS- Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin pleaded not guilty 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. This arraignment marked a rare public appearance for Nagin, who now lives in Frisco, Texas, and has kept a low-profile since he left office in 2010. Nagin has to surrender his passport and needs permission from court officials to travel outside Louisiana and Texas while the case is pending. Shushan set a trial date of April 29, although major public corruption cases generally take far longer to reach that stage. A pretrial conference was set for April 16. The case was assigned to U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan.
Nagin was a little-known businessman before he was first elected mayor in 2002, but Hurricane Katrina turned him into a national figure with a reputation for cringe-inducing rhetoric. In 2005, after Katrina struck and several levees crumbled, his desperate plea for federal officials to “get off your asses” and help was heard worldwide. Re-elected to a second term in 2006, Nagin was widely faulted for overseeing a halting recovery. The indictment focuses on questionable activity from this period, although some of the activities described purportedly occurred before the catastrophic storm.