Greg Meffert, the technology whiz who helped lead Mayor Ray Nagin down the road to perdition, is due to report to federal prison by noon Saturday.
Meffert pleaded guilty in 2010 to taking more than $800,000 in bribes. He then helped federal prosecutors convict his patron and onetime pal, contractor Mark St. Pierre.
Last year, he was a key witness at Nagin’s corruption trial, helping the feds convict the former mayor by testifying that Nagin knew St. Pierre was bankrolling trips and other goodies for Nagin’s family.
In September, Nagin began a 10-year prison stint in Texarkana, Texas.
All the cooperation served Meffert well: He was sentenced to just 30 months, though federal sentencing guidelines called for a sentence of eight years. U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon also agreed to allow Meffert, 49, to spend the holidays with his family, rather than report to prison in early November.
To boot, Fallon said he would ask that Meffert be sent to the minimum security federal prison camp in Bastrop, Texas, about 90 minutes from San Antonio, where Meffert grew up and where his family now lives.
It’s unclear whether that request was honored. The Bureau of Prisons does not confirm which prison an inmate has been assigned to until after the inmate’s term begins. Meffert’s lawyer, Randy Smith, did not respond to a message Friday.
Shortly after sentencing Meffert, Fallon slashed St. Pierre’s sentence from 17½ years to five years. St. Pierre, who is being held at a camp in Fort Worth, is now due to get out in January 2016.
Jack Strain counting down days to election
The countdown to 2015 — an election year — was still a day off, but St. Tammany Parish Sheriff Jack Strain was wasting no time: He worked the room at a news conference this week in full campaign mode, shaking hands with reporters and asking for each of their votes.
He turned to his smartphone, which displayed the months, weeks, days and hours until qualifying for the Oct. 24 primary.
The sheriff, who is serving his fifth term, ran without opposition in the last two elections, but at least one potential opponent has surfaced this time. Jennifer Werther posted an announcement of her candidacy in June on her Facebook page.
A retired Navy chief, she describes herself as having experience in leadership, management and national security.
In the Navy, she was involved with auxiliary security force, anti-terrorism force protection, command and control, emergency operations and cybersecurity, she said in her announcement.
She is also a recent graduate of Strain’s citizens academy, a fact he was quick to point out. It’s also noted on her page.
Oldest judge absent as newest one sworn in
The newest judge to win a seat on the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court bench was sworn in this week in a ceremony flush with promise, as state and federal judges, Sheriff Marlin Gusman, District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro and U.S. attorneys past and present welcomed former prosecutor Byron C. Williams to the robe.
The oldest judge, meanwhile, was nowhere to be seen.
Conspicuously absent from the roster of Criminal Court judges attending Williams’ investiture on Tuesday was Frank Marullo, the longest-serving jurist in Louisiana.
Marullo might be excused, having turned 75 on Wednesday — an inauspicious milestone that leaves him girding for a legal challenge to his right to serve another six years.
The fight could start soon, with a widely expected complaint — from whom is not clear — to the state Judiciary Commission. Ultimately the decision on Marullo’s status will fall to the Louisiana Supreme Court, which has the sole power to remove a sitting state judge.
Marullo’s Dec. 31 birthday could prove hard to overcome.
While the 4th Circuit Court of Appeal ruled last fall that there was nothing to stop him from running for re-election — a decision the state’s high court refused to overturn — the appeals court also made clear that the rules for actually taking the bench are another matter.
The state constitution sets a 70-year mandatory retirement age for judges — a cap that statewide voters refused to abandon in 2014, even as more than half of New Orleans voters backed Marullo for a new term and also supported the failed amendment to abolish the age limit.
However, it’s a “soft” cap, allowing judges to serve out their terms if they hit the mandatory retirement age while in office.
Marullo, though, claims he falls under the state’s old, 1921 constitution, which had a hard, 75-year age cap at the time then-Gov. Edwin Edwards appointed him 40 years ago, but also that he qualifies for the wiggle room under the newer document.
That best-of-both-worlds legal argument may be trumped by the fact that Marullo came into the world two minutes before the New Year’s Eve ball dropped in 1939.
Critics claim that, at age 75, neither constitution helps him.
Compiled by Gordon Russell, Sara Pagones and John Simerman.