Less than a month into his 10-year stint in federal prison, Ray Nagin has apparently acquired at least one new pen pal: David Andrew Christenson, a local gadfly who has spent years warning of what he calls the “Katrina virus,” a disease he claims the federal government introduced after the 2005 hurricane.
Christenson sent Nagin’s wife, Seletha, a letter earlier this month and got a reply from the former mayor, written in Nagin’s distinctive script. Christenson sent both letters to reporters this week.
It’s not clear from Nagin’s reply whether he puts any stock in Christenson’s theories, but he certainly claims to harbor suspicions of his own about the federal government and continues to assert his innocence.
At one point, referring to U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan, who this summer sentenced him to 10 years in prison for taking bribes, Nagin wrote, “As you know, there are many evil forces working behind the scenes to destroy me even though I believe Judge Berrigan is a good person.”
Later, Nagin thanks Christenson for his letter and writes, “I know you have been fighting the feds for quite some time.”
He goes on to recommend a book given to him by a fellow inmate: “Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent.”
Nagin adds that he is “lining up at least three other attorneys to give me tactics and case law to focus on in the appeal,” and he asks Christenson if he has any idea how he might get his hands on internal Department of Justice reports about prosecutorial misconduct in the local U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Christenson has tried to intervene in a number of high-profile federal criminal cases, filing third-party motions in which he typically invokes the “Katrina virus” and asserts a massive cover-up. He also has floated conspiracy theories about the 2010 BP oil spill.
In July, he filed a motion to intervene in Nagin’s case, but Berrigan threw it out, saying he lacked standing.
Christenson was arrested by FBI agents in 2011 and booked with two counts of cyberstalking for allegedly sending threatening emails to an agent he had bumped into on the street. He was not prosecuted in that case.
Judicial races thinning in Orleans Parish
The number of contested seats on the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court bench dwindled Friday when prosecutor Kevin Guillory announced he is dropping his challenge to Judge Laurie White for the Section A seat.
In a news release, Guillory said he’s bowing out to care for his ailing father, who suffered a heart attack Monday and underwent surgery.
Guillory’s withdrawal followed an earlier exit by attorney Amy Kern, who had qualified to run against Judge Arthur Hunter for his Section K seat.
That leaves just two of the court’s 12 seats up for grabs.
For the Section G race to replace newly retired Judge Julian Parker, Municipal Court Judge Paul Sens will vie against Byron C. Williams, a former Orleans Parish prosecutor and counsel to the president of Southern University.
The other race is for the Section D seat held for 40 years by Frank Marullo, the longest-serving judge in Louisiana. Challenging Marullo are former prosecutor Graham Bosworth and attorney Marie Williams.
Marullo is facing a challenge largely because of legal questions that have surrounded whether he can run and take office if he wins. The courts answered the first question in his favor, but doubts remain about whether, with his 75th birthday coming on Dec. 31, he can skirt the mandatory retirement age for judges of 70 if he wins.
The dearth of contested races at the courthouse may not be so surprising. It’s been four decades since an incumbent has lost a re-election bid there.
In the meantime, the nonpartisan Alliance for Good Government ladled out endorsements this week in a host of political races in the parish.
At Criminal Court, the group favored Bosworth in the Section D race and Sens in the Section G contest.
It gave its nod to Janet Ahern in the race for the open domestic section in Civil District Court, while favoring incumbents Bernadette D’Souza, Lloyd Medley Jr. and Chris Bruno to retain their respective seats at that court.
Also gaining favor from the group was Orleans Parish prosecutor Niki Roberts for the Section E seat at Juvenile Court now held by suspended Judge Yolanda King.
The group also liked incumbent Leon Cannizzaro for Orleans Parish district attorney and former Southern University Chanceller Joseph Bouie for the vacant state House District 97 seat. Those endorsements came before both candidates’ competitors — Lionel “Lon” Burns and Eugene Green, respectively — left the races.
Trainor mobilizing volunteer army
Brian Trainor, on leave from his job as chief deputy of the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office, has begun campaigning in earnest for district attorney of St. Tammany and Washington parishes.
According to a news release, he has “enlisted and activated” more than 200 volunteers, placed more than 2,000 signs and met with 1,500 residents in door-to-door visits.
He’s also leading the pack in raising money: His release said he has raked in more than $300,000 in contributions. The next campaign finance report isn’t due to the Louisiana Ethics Administration until Oct. 6.
That doesn’t mean Trainor is the only candidate with money, however. One of his three opponents, Roy Burns, seeded his campaign with $200,000 of his own money. Another DA hopeful, Alan Black, loaned his campaign at least $25,000 to go with the $19,000 he had raised by July 27.
Candidate Warren Montgomery has yet to file a campaign finance report, having jumped into the race late.
Compiled by staff writers Gordon Russell, John Simerman and Faimon A. Roberts III