Ray Nagin’s wife and children have made an eleventh-hour request to delay the sentencing of the disgraced former mayor, who is scheduled to find out Wednesday how long he’ll spend in prison for accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes while in office.
Seletha Nagin once again implored U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan to hold off on sentencing her husband, who faces as many as 20 years in prison, until “reports” of prosecutorial misconduct are investigated more fully.
Nagin’s sons, both unindicted co-conspirators in schemes outlined by federal prosecutors in February, broke their silence to protest their father’s innocence. Neither son attended their father’s trial.
The letters were among the last of the 56 on file the day before the sentencing hearing. Most asked for leniency, although a few sought the maximum allowable punishment.
Jarin Nagin’s two-page letter to Berrigan said his father told his sons upon deciding to run for mayor in 2002 that it would mean they’d “be under a microscope” and “flying straight will be the only option.”
He said he and his brother “took it to heart in everything we did” and characterized the family’s granite-countertop company as an unwitting victim of unscrupulous business associates who turned on their father to save their hides.
“Right after my father took office there were people who came to us that I grew to admire,” he wrote. “They appeared to be sincere and supportive but turned out to be very dangerous.”
Jarin Nagin said Rodney Williams, a businessman who was convicted of bribery in the scandal, was told on several occasions that money he gave to the business was an investment that would yield no political favors.
They said granite provided by Frank Fradella, another witness for the prosecution, was “a bunch of broken, scratched, cracked, low quality granite slabs that were a pain to get rid of.”
“No one in their right mind would accept trash material for a bribe,” he wrote. “That doesn’t make sense. But he too changed his tune after he was facing over twenty years in jail for SEC fraud.”
Jarin Nagin said Home Depot only turned on his father after he publicly opposed selling city property to the massive retailer at a discount.
“This was around the same time when strategically placed negative publicity from media and politicians started. Several of Home Depot’s employees’ attitudes changed. They tried to push us out by … creating situations where we could be terminated, but with the help of God giving us a burning desire to succeed we jumped over their hurdles.”
Jeremy Nagin’s handwritten letter avoided specifics in favor of sweeping statements about a corrupt city that attacked an innocent man for trying to do good.
“I know for a fact, that my father has been railroaded to deflect attention and set an example,” he wrote. “Not a positive example, but one that impregnates fear into any person even thinking about challenging small relatively powerful groups, for the better of all people.”
Jeremy Nagin said federal prosecutors “pimped criminally convicted and questionable witnesses to lie on the stand for future rewards”
“With respect,” he wrote, “anything less than this case being dismissed (on the many grounds it can be) would be a sad day for the city of New Orleans, the nation + our world.”
Seletha Nagin’s four-page letter made reference to the online commenting scandal that enveloped the U.S. Attorney’s Office, in which top prosecutors in other cases were found to have posted comments anonymously on online news reports about defendants they were prosecuting.
“I am asking that you delay these sentencing proceedings until we are allowed to see all the reports that have thus far only been summarized but clearly show a clear pattern of prosecutorial misconduct,” she wrote. “It seems justice would dictate that these and other reports should be reviewed by you and promptly released to the public.”
She also painted her husband as a victim of a corrupt system.
“It is obvious to many that because Ray stood up against some powerful people he has been targeted, smeared and the victim of a coordinated propaganda campaign that tainted his trial and improperly influenced the jury pool,” she said.
Seletha Nagin, who filed for bankruptcy in May, said the Nagins have exhausted their savings, sold furniture and jewelry, borrowed from family and even taken public assistance.
“My sons and I also struggle to find meaningful employment,” she wrote, noting they’ve been isolated by friends she said are wary of associating with the Nagins.
The file also included a letter from Nagin’s daughter, Tianna, attesting to her father’s character, and one that appears to be from a Nagin grandson.