A federal judge has denied a request by prosecutors to present bank and business records in Ray Nagin’s corruption trial without affording Nagin the opportunity to cross-examine the custodians of those records.
The government cited case law that said business records can be placed into evidence without rebuttal. The evidence prosecutors wanted included Nagin’s bank accounts and his granite countertop business Stone Age’s dubious claim for oil spill losses.
But Nagin’s attorney, Robert Jenkins, argued that preventing him from questioning the bank officials and others who maintain the records would compromise his client’s ability to fully defend himself against 21 counts, including bribery, conspiracy, honest services wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan agreed, albeit with a warning: She said Nagin’s team better cross-examine those witnesses at trial, rather than declining to and leaving the impression that prosecutors are wasting the jury’s time with rote testimony about what’s evident in the documents themselves.
Also Friday, Berrigan asked Nagin's team to clarify what "good character" traits they want to present to the jury at trial before she decides whether to allow it or not. The government had asked Berrigan to preclude Nagin from talking about the honest services he actually performed as mayor as a defense to charges of corruption.
She disagreed with Jenkins' argument that Nagin's character in general was central to the government's case and therefore examples of his good work as mayor was crucial to his defense. So, Berrigan said she would give Jenkins time to clarify what character issues would be relevant to Nagin's defense.