US & Canada

New Orleans ex-mayor Ray Nagin sentenced to 10 years

Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin leaves federal court after his conviction in New Orleans 12 February 2014 Image copyright AP

Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for bribery, money laundering and other corruption charges.

He was convicted in February for accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from businessmen.

Prosecutors say the bribes included the years immediately after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005.

Nagin, 58, was mayor from 2002-10 and became the face of the city worldwide during the disaster.

US District Judge Helen Berrigan handed down the sentence on Wednesday. Prosecutors had been pushing for a 20-year sentence.

But defence lawyers for Nagin argued that amounted to a life sentence, and the six-years worth of bribes was an "aberration" in Nagin's otherwise upstanding service.

At least four Nagin associates have already pleaded guilty in the case.

Beginning in June 2004, two years after he was elected, Nagin took payments, travel and other gratuities in exchange for city contracts and other favours.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Nagin became well-known after a radio interview in which he angrily asked for more post-hurricane help

In one of the most high-profile instances of corruption in the case, Nagin accepted more than $160,000 (£100,000) in bribes from local businessman Frank Fradella.

In exchange, Nagin helped Fradella secure millions of dollars in contracts from the city in the wake of Katrina, including construction at the airport and sidewalk repair projects.

Prosecutors argued during the trial that during his time in office, Nagin travelled with his family to Hawaii and Jamaica on trips paid for by local businessmen, as well as accepted free travel by private jet to Chicago, Las Vegas and New York City.

Nagin also received free granite for his family's business from a contractor as a bribe.

In letters to the judge ahead of sentencing, Nagin's family accused the US attorney's office that had investigated the case of misconduct.

They maintained the former mayor was innocent, the New Orleans Times- Picauyne reported.