NEW ORLEANS - Just days before it was to begin, the corruption trial of former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin has been delayed until January 27, U.S. District Court Judge Ginger Berrigan has ruled.
The motion to delay the trial for Nagin's defense was granted by Berrigan "to enable defense counsel to adequately prepare." Berrigan added, "the considerable number of documents that the government intends to offer against the defendant militate in favor of granting the requested continuance."
The trial was set to begin this coming Monday. It has been delayed a couple of times already. Nagin was indicted in January on 21 counts of conspiracy, bribery, wire fraud and tax fraud.
With the last minute delay, Nagin's defense will get to see all of the exhibits that the prosecution had planned to use in the trial, allowing the defense to see what the federal case against Nagin is going to look like.
Around the time of the indictment, many legal experts were surprised that Nagin didn’t take a plea deal, given that his attorney, Robert Jenkins, acknowledged having had plea discussions with federal prosecutors. When the grand jury indictment made reference to other important figures who could be ensnared in the alleged conspiracy – including Nagin’s two adult sons and a local theater owner, known to be George Solomon Jr. – the pressure to cop a plea only increased.
As recently as September, Nagin made a bid to delay his trial denied indefinitely, with Jenkins arguing that the prosecution had been tainted by the scandal surrounding online comments made by former members of the U.S. Attorney's Office. But when he requested that Berrigan dismiss the charges, she refused, saying jury selection would ensure a fair trial.
She did not, however, rule so quickly on Nagin's latest attempt to push the trial back. Then, on Monday, the government and Nagin were required to turn over their exhibits. When they met Thursday for a final pre-trial meeting, Berrigan decided to grant the continuance.
In January of this year, Ray Nagin became the first modern mayor of New Orleans charged with federal crimes in a 21-count indictment that alleges he engaged in a criminal conspiracy involving free trips and inside deals; accepted $132,500 in bribes along with truckloads of free granite for his family business; deprived the public of its right to receive his honest services; laundered the money he received; and falsely reported his income on his tax returns.
Seven people, including city vendors and officials in Nagin’s administration, have already been convicted of participating in the alleged scheme and are expected to testify against him at trial.
Nagin has steadfastly maintained his innocence, although he has not yet offered a defense for the specific charges he’s facing. He did address some of the allegations in 2009, when we confronted him about the free trips to Hawaii and Jamaica he and his family got from a city vendor. He said he thought a rich employee had paid for them.