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Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin released from prison under COVID program

The 63-year-old Nagin was convicted on 20 counts of corruption, bribery and fraud in 2014.

NEW ORLEANS — Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin has been released from federal prison three years early, one of his attorneys told WWL-TV.

The story was first reported by our partners at The Times-Picayune | New Orleans Advocate.

Federal Public Defender Claude Kelly, who handled Nagin’s appeals of his 2014 corruption conviction and 10-year prison sentence, said he confirmed Nagin’s release Monday evening from Nagin’s trial attorney, Robert Jenkins. Kelly said his office had nothing to do with the early release, but said Nagin asked the federal Bureau of Prisons for a compassionate release under a new program to lower the prison population amid the coronavirus outbreak.

“He’s a perfect candidate for this, just from fairness standpoint,” Kelly said.

WWL-TV could not reach Jenkins for comment.

Nagin, who served as mayor from 2002 to 2010, became a national figure during the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and afterward, but had already begun a kickback scheme that began in 2004 and continued until after he left office, receiving money and help for his sons’ granite business in exchange for city business and support for private development projects.

The 63-year-old Nagin was convicted on 20 counts of corruption, bribery and fraud in February 2014. He reported to a low-security prison in Texarkana, Texas, for a 10-year sentence in September 2014.

His full sentence would have lasted until September 2024, four and a half years from now. He was scheduled for release after serving 85 percent of his sentence under typical U.S. Bureau of Prisons rules for good behavior. That was to be on March 16, 2023, according to the Bureau of Prisons’ website, which showed Nagin as still being there Monday night as Inmate Number 32751-034.

But Nagin served just 56 percent of his sentence before getting released under the special COVID-19 compassionate release program announced this month by U.S. Attorney General William Barr.

Gordon Russell of The Times-Picayune confirmed his release Monday from Nagin’s brother-in-law Cedric Smith, who said Nagin is home with his family in Frisco, Texas.

“He's doing fine," Smith told the newspaper. "It's a great day for our family. We're really happy he's back home."

Barr announced a program to release older, low-risk offenders nearing the ends of their sentences because of the threat of COVID-19 spreading in the prisons.

The Texarkana Federal Correctional Institution had not reported any cases of COVID-19, raising the question of whether Nagin would be safer from the virus in prison than at home.

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