Ex-New Orleans mayor asks judge to throw out his conviction
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin has asked a federal judge to throw out his corruption conviction, citing a recent Supreme Court decision making it more difficult to convict public officials of bribery.
Acting as his own attorney, Nagin filed a motion Wednesday “to vacate, set aside or correct” his 10-year sentence for bribery, “honest-services” wire fraud, conspiracy to commit bribery and money laundering and filing false tax returns.
Nagin, 60, argues that his case is identical to corruption cases recently overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court concerning former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and by a federal appeals court concerning former New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. The Supreme Court ruling spurred the immediate release of former Louisiana Congressman William Jefferson, who had been serving a 13-year sentence since 2012. He faces a new sentencing hearing on Dec. 1 on three of the seven counts remaining against him. Before then, though, the government must decide by Monday (Oct. 16) if it wants to retry Jefferson on the seven counts that were tossed out.
“The fundamentals of my case are practically identical to the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision to overturn McDonnell and the federal appeal court reversal on Silver,” Nagin writes. “McDonnell and Silver’s attorneys successfully argued that they didn’t take any formal government action on any contractor’s behalf nor did they pressure others to do so. As mentioned above, the prosecutors in my case did not present any city officials or appointees who said I influenced anyone to circumvent the state’s sealed bid requirements.”
He also argues that at no time did “I ‘put my thumb on the scale’ to tip these contracts” to the state’s key witness, Frank Fradella, or anyone else.
“None of the proposals Mr. Fradella presented to me were approved and the consulting contract in question was effective after I left office and Mr. Fradella was not a party to it. Therefore, I respectfully ask the court to vacate my convictions,” he said.
In addition, Nagin argued his convictions should be vacated based on prosecutors violating the Brady rule, which says suppression of evidence favorable to an accused violates due process. “Federal prosecutors clearly violated the Brady rule and its progeny resulting in my not receiving a fair trial. Mr. Fradella would have been impeached as a witness and would not have been credible and the jury would not have had any confidence in his testimony,” he said.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Oct. 3 denied Nagin’s petition to appeal his conviction, letting stand the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal decision in January that called his arguments “meritless.”
Nagin’s case was reassigned Thursday to U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo. The judge who presided over Nagin’s trial retired last year.
Nagin, who served two terms as mayor from 2002 to 2010, is serving his sentence at the Satellite Prison Camp in Texarkana, Texas. He’s scheduled for release on May 25, 2023.
Associated Press writer Michael Kunzelman contributed to this report.