Whatever the contractors who admitted bribing former Mayor Ray Nagin say now, their criminal records, numerous internal city documents and rules about the awarding of municipal contracts will show those bribes didn’t happen, Nagin’s attorney argued Thursday in his opening statement in Nagin’s corruption trial.
Robert Jenkins spent little more than 20 minutes telling the jury that “we have thousands and thousands of e-mails to support there was no corruption, no kickbacks and no payoffs” when it came to Nagin’s two terms in office.
Jenkins previewed a bid to impugn several of those who have pleaded guilty in the alleged conspiracy, some who carry the baggage of criminal records unrelated to the alleged Nagin schemes.
Among them: Frank Fradella allegedly ladled a $50,000 bribe and truckloads of granite on Nagin and Stone Age LLC, the company Nagin owned with his sons while he was mayor.
“The evidence is easily going to support that what they did was a fallacy,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins previewed a defense that appears to lean heavily on the incentive of Nagin’s accusers to now testify against him for the government.
Another plank of Nagin’s defense, said Jenkins: The government vastly overrates Nagin’s influence on public bid contracting in the city, as well as with the kind of no-bid professional services contracts that prosecutors say Nagin doled out to tech vendor Mark St. Pierre and others, receiving money, first-class travel and other illegal benefits to the tune of what prosecutors tally at more than $500,000.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Matt Coman earlier described such no-bid contracts as virtual cash machines, and Nagin as the man pulling the lever on who could cash in, and who couldn’t.
Jenkins sniffed away that claim.
“It’s not very difficult,” he said. “A lot of it seems like it was a lot of things going on. Public bids: He has no control. He signs the agreement once the City Council signs off. And professional services is (based on) a committee ranking.”
“Frank Fradella had his history of convictions and lying and perjury,” Jenkins told the jury. “They all have baggage. All of them.”