Criminal Justice

Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin thought he would be acquitted, his lawyer says

Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin was shocked when jurors convicted him this week on 20 counts of corruption, his lawyer says.

Defense lawyer Robert Jenkins described Nagin’s reaction and defended the decision for Nagin to testify in interviews with WDSU and the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

Jenkins told WDSU he didn’t think Nagin was prepared for the verdict. “He was truly under the impression that he would be acquitted,” Jenkins said. “He was in good shape, good spirits—he was surprised by the verdict and maintains he did nothing wrong.”

Jenkins told the Times-Picayune that seven hours of testimony by Nagin “didn’t hurt us at all.” He told the newspaper that Jenkins and Nagin together reached the decision to testify after weighing the pros and cons.

In the WDSU interview, Jenkins talked about the decision this way: “Everyone can ‘Monday-morning quarterback’ all they want, but I think he agreed on the fact that he wanted to take the stand and testify, and we felt the jury wanted to hear from him. I just think the amount of information the prosecution presented was overwhelming and there is always going to be hindsight, but the jury didn’t turn off to him.”

According to the Times-Picayune, Nagin “committed several obvious gaffes during his testimony.” When prosecutors asked him about a $275 birthday dinner charged to taxpayers, Nagin said dinners held after Hurricane Katrina were often used to discuss business. Prosecutors responded with the date on the bill, which was two months before Katrina. Nagin also said an Atlanta hotel bill was due to Katrina, but prosecutors showed the date was five months before the storm.

The government also produced a damning email when Nagin said he couldn’t recall arrangements for a private jet trip paid for by a developer. “Thanks a bunch,” Nagin wrote to the developer. “You’re the man.”

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