NEW ORLEANS – Justice Department prosecutors and defense attorneys put on closing arguments Monday morning in the federal corruption trial of former Mayor C. Ray Nagin. Assistant U.S. attorneys mocked Nagin’s forgetfulness and finger-pointing. Defense attorney Richard Jenkins slammed prosecutors as misleading and their witnesses as unreliable criminals.
Prosecutor Richard Pickens led off the morning listing the benefits Nagin is accused of raking in as part of various bribery schemes, outlined in the conspiracy indictment, the first of 21 counts against him:
- Family vacations to Jamaica and Hawaii
- Cell phones
- Jet travel to Chicago, Las Vegas, and New York.
- Cash infusions totaling $122,500 into his family granite company, Stone Age LLC.
- Granite for Stone Age, estimated worth $50,000
Pickens recounted city contractor Rodney Williams’ — who has pled guilty — testimony that Nagin told him he was “tapped out” of Stone Age funds and said Williams and Nagin “dressed up” a bribe as an investment in the company. City vendor and would-be developer Frank Fradella also put money — and granite — into Stone Age, but Pickens said “the only investment being made is an investment in Ray Nagin as the mayor of New Orleans.”
Pickens sketched out several of Nagin’s activities in office, characterizing them as “official acts” in furtherance of the conspiracy to deprive New Orleanians of his honest services. Among these: meeting with Fradella and potential investors in Fradella’s redevelopment ideas; promising to “weigh in” on a Fradella contract bid; issuing an executive order making it easier for IT contracts to skip a formal bidding process; and opposing a “community benefits agreement” as a condition of allowing Home Depot to build a superstore downtown.
Turning to money-laundering charges, Pickens accused Nagin of “flushing dirty money through the banking system.”
The prosecutor highlighted an email thanking movie theater owner Geroge Solomon for a jet flight to New York: “Thanks a bunch. You the man!” Solomon had a city tax penalty forgiven almost immediately after the flight, which Nagin claims to have forgot who paid for.
Pickens also pointed out that Nagin had claimed in earlier investigations not to know Mark St. Pierre, the IT contractor who chaired a Nagin fundraiser and paid for two tropical vacations.
Pickens asked why Nagin and city attorneys attempted to conceal corporate documents and personal calendars from the state ethics board and the media.
He concluded saying, ”Take a look at the big picture… He defrauded the citizens of New Orleans of the right to receive the services of an honest politician.”