Posted on January 18, 2013 at 11:11 PM
Wednesday, Oct 23 at 2:50 PM
Monica Hernandez / Eyewitness News
Email: email@example.com | Twitter: @mhernandezwwl
NEW ORLEANS - The last time New Orleans hosted a Super Bowl was in 2002, just months before Ray Nagin was sworn in as mayor.
Now, just weeks before the Crescent City hosts Super Bowl XLVII, the city's former leader has been slapped with a sweeping federal indictment.
As New Orleans prepares to takes center stage in a worldwide event that will bring in hundreds of journalists, the ancillary focus will likely fall on the city's post-Katrina recovery and the leader who allegedly hindered it.
“It is, perhaps, unfortunate, given the fact that the national spotlight will be shining on our city in the next several weeks,” said Dane Ciolino, a law professor at Loyola University.
Nagin, slapped with a 21-count federal indictment, faces a lengthy prison sentence. His alleged crimes include granting multi-million dollar city contracts in exchange for bribes.
“We're talking about a seven-year span of payments and gifts and investments that were disguised as investments in his family granite business, luxury vacations, limousines, private jet rides,” said Rafael Goyeneche, head of the Metropolitan Crime Commission.
And with just weeks before Super Bowl 47, there are concerns the indictment could taint the international perception of New Orleans. But experts say the timing couldn't have been helped.
“The federal government was really backed into a corner on this indictment, the statute of limitations was running on some of these crimes, the government had to either indict or essentially forgo some of these counts,” said Ciolino.
Goyeneche believes the sweeping federal indictment is actually a sign of progress, showing that corruption inside city hall won't be tolerated.
“I think the people expect public officials that have betrayed the public trust to be held accountable, and that's what we have today,” said Goyeneche.
"It's a sad day, but at the same time it sends a clear signal to the rest of the country that we're serious about cleaning up corruption here in New Orleans and moving forward,” said New Orleans Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux.
Experts point out, very few of the public corruption cases presented by the federal government in New Orleans have ended with acquittals.
“Many, many others, other public officials have plead guilty, or gone ahead to take their chances at trial and lost,” said Ciolino.
Nagin’s attorney, Robert Jenkins, has said talks with the government are ongoing, suggesting there is still a possibility for a plea deal.
Meanwhile, tourism officials said they'll work as hard as possible to show the world how far New Orleans has come and how much it has to offer regardless of the historic federal indictment.
"The news from today does not affect the planning or implementation of our 10th Super Bowl in any way whatsoever. We are focused on sharing three key messages- New Orleans is a great place to live and work, a great place to visit, and a great place to host a Super Bowl. Period," said Mark Romig, Super Bowl Host Committee.