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Former New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin on Jan. 30, 2014, enters federal court for jury selection in his corruption trial. He was convicted Feb. 12. / Gerald Herbert, AP

A federal jury today convicted former New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin of bribery, wire fraud and other charges, making him the first mayor in the city's 296-year history to be convicted of corruption.

The 12-person jury in New Orleans took two days to find Nagin, 57, guilty on 20 of 21 counts of federal corruption charges. During the nine-day trial, prosecutors used more than two dozen witnesses and reams of evidence to detail how Nagin, a Democrat, accepted more than $500,000 in cash bribes and first-class trips from business leaders in exchange for lucrative city contracts.

The verdict marks the end of a tumultuous period for New Orleans, beginning with Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and ending with Nagin's indictment eight years later, says Ed Chervenak, political scientist at the University of New Orleans. Nagin was the very public face of the city after levees failed in the wake of the storm, killing hundreds of residents and submerging much of the city.

"This is a chapter in New Orleans history that people want to close and move on," Chervenak says. "They definitely want to put the Ray Nagin years behind them."

"It's Shakespearean in its proportions," says political analyst Clancy DuBos. "This is the guy who came in as the big corruption fighter. He actually invited the feds over to City Hall to investigate the previous administration."

Nagin will remain free on bond awaiting his sentencing. He faces up to 20 years in prison for some of the charges. Nagin's wife, Seletha, sobbed in the courtroom as the somber-looking former mayor left to consult with attorneys.

During the trial, prosecutors showed the jury that Nagin accepted a variety of cash and gifts from would-be contractors with the city, including a first-class trip to Jamaica, private jet travel to New York City and Chicago, money and free granite for his sons' granite countertop business. He also took direct cash payoffs totaling in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Using e-mails, bank statements and witness testimony, prosecutors showed how business associates showered Nagin and his family with a $6,500 trip to Jamaica and $5,400 worth of mobile phones, according to testimony updates by nola.com. Those associates would later win million-dollar contracts with the city.

Nagin also racked up thousands of dollars on city credit cards for personal use, including $300 steak dinners at a Dallas steakhouse, nights at the Ritz-Carlton in Atlanta and a trip to Las Vegas for his wife, according to nola.com. For Nagin's 50th birthday, a contractor doing business with the city paid for a birthday bash at a New Orleans restaurant costing more than $1,000.

In 2004 alone, federal agents said, Nagin spent $55,000 on city credit cards for purchases that had nothing to do with city business, including $14,000 in hotel stays, $19,000 in meals and $1,000 for clothing, according to nola.com.

Nagin took the stand in his own defense and rebutted the allegations. His attorney, Robert Jenkins, suggested to the jury that many of the government's witnesses were facing their own prosecutions and fabricated stories to lower their punishment. Jenkins called only five witnesses to the stand, including Nagin. Prosecutors called 26 witnesses.

Contributing: David Hammer, WWL-TV, in New Orleans.



Copyright 2014USA TODAY

Read the original story: Former New Orleans mayor found guilty of corruption

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