Ray Nagin has lost his appeal.
The former two-term New Orleans mayor, who is now serving a 10-year sentence at a low-security federal prison in Texarkana, Texas, failed to convince a federal appeals court panel that the jury in his trial was given illegal instructions regarding nine counts of “honest services” wire fraud.
In a nine-page ruling issued Thursday, 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Judges Fortunato Benavides, James Dennis and Gregg Costa also rejected Nagin’s claim that the $501,000 forfeiture that U.S. District Judge Helen “Ginger” Berrigan imposed on him was illegal.
Nagin, 59, became the first New Orleans mayor to face prison time for corruption when a jury convicted him in 2014 on 20 of 21 counts from a 2013 indictment accusing him of trading his political influence for bribes from city contractors.
Nagin was found guilty of an overarching conspiracy count, five counts of accepting bribes, nine counts of wire fraud, one count of money laundering and four counts of filing false tax returns.
The jury acquitted him on one bribery count.
Nagin’s court-appointed appeals lawyers argued in vain at an October hearing that Berrigan issued an improper instruction that allowed the jury to convict Nagin on the nine counts of fraud, or depriving the public of its right to his honest services.
Attorney Jordan Siverd said the jury should have been told that Nagin could be found guilty of accepting those bribes — nine $12,500 payments that he received under a post-mayoral consulting contract with developer Frank Fradella — only if prosecutors could show the money actually influenced Nagin’s behavior in office.
Fradella made the payments after Nagin left office.
Nagin argued that several of the payments he accepted — from Fradella and businessman Rodney Williams, for instance — made no difference because his power over city contracts was limited. The City Charter, public bid laws and a veto-proof City Council majority left him no ability to choose favored vendors, he argued.
The appeals panel noted that Nagin’s trial attorney, Robert Jenkins, did not object to the jury instructions.
The panel also upheld the money judgment, finding only a minor clerical error in Berrigan’s sentencing of the former mayor, who served from 2002 to 2010.
Follow John Simerman on Twitter, @johnsimerman.