Former New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin was convicted on 20 of 21 counts of corruption and bribery today.
USA Today reporter Rick Jervis did a bit of a profile of Nagin in the course of reporting on the convictions. It included a recounting of his time at the city’s helm during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. But one thing his 2:39 p.m. report predictably did not include was Nagin’s Democratic Party affiliation (bolds are mine):
First Take: Ex-New Orleans mayor Nagin convicted
The former mayor of New Orleans – once the public face of a city battered by Hurricane Katrina – could be headed to prison.
A jury has just returned guilty verdicts on 20 of the 21 counts of corruption and bribery that Ray Nagin faced in a nine-day trial.
Barring a favorable appeal, Nagin, 57, could be sentenced to as much as two decades in a federal penitentiary. Prosecutors used 26 witnesses and reams of documents to detail how Nagin accepted more than $500,000 in payouts, including first-class trips to Jamaica and Manhattan, in exchange for millions of dollars in city contracts.
Nagin’s spectacular plunge from upstart politician and post-storm persona to convicted felon is more than just another case study in public service gone awry. American history – Louisiana’s in particular – is littered with similar cases of politicians on the take.
What makes Nagin’s case unique is that it occurred amid one of the worst catastrophes to hit a U.S. city. The floods unleashed by faulty federal levees in the wake of Hurricane Katrina on Aug. 29, 2005, led to the deaths of 1,800 people across the Gulf Coast, caused a record-breaking $135 billion in damage and devastated New Orleans.
The city emptied. Its economy flat-lined. People questioned whether the city that gave us jazz and crawfish etouffee would ever return.
It was a pivotal moment in New Orleans and U.S. history. And at the city’s helm was Nagin.
Prosecutors say Nagin’s personal-enrichment schemes at City Hall began before Katrina hit, continued through the storm’s bumpy aftermath and persevered through his second term and even beyond. …
… Early in the storm’s aftermath, Nagin showed signs of becoming the leader the city needed, admonishing the federal government for its slow response and giving impassioned national TV interviews. But he quickly began to retreat. As the hard road to recovery stretched into weeks, then months and years, Nagin was seen less and less. The mayor’s vision for a new New Orleans was nowhere to be had. He was out of town a lot. Prosecutors showed that many of those trips — to New York City, Las Vegas and Jamaica — were funded by businessmen hoping to land big contracts with the city.
A proper rendering of history will show that Nagin and then-Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco were incredibly negligent in the runup to Katrina’s arrival and primarily responsible for its failed preparations, but that the establishment press did all it could, with some success, to pin the blame on the federal government and the administration of George W. Bush.
Now that we know Nagin had his hand in the till even as his city’s residents were dying, perhaps that the current historical misrendering will begin to change. Here’s one more picture of flooded school buses which could have been used to assist in the city’s evacuation showing why a large share of the responsibility for the degree of suffering during Katrina goes to Nagin:
Sorry, establishment press. That’s not Bush’s fault.
Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.