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Prosecution rests case in ex-Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin's bribery trial

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Federal prosecutors rested their corruption case Wednesday against former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, leaving it to defense lawyers to counter five days of testimony from more than two dozen witnesses, including five who said they were involved in bribing Nagin.

Nagin served as mayor from 2002 to 2010. Prosecutors allege that corruption spanned the two terms and included the period after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, when contractors sought to benefit from potentially lucrative rebuilding jobs in the devastated city.

The final prosecution witness was Josephine Beninati, a financial analyst for the U.S. Attorney's Office, who discussed her examination of documents indicating Nagin got $511,000 in money, travel, cellular phone service, granite for his family business and other benefits. Prosecutors say it was all bribes the Democrat took during and after his two terms in office.

Defense lawyer Robert Jenkins has tried to attack the credibility of witnesses testifying under plea agreements. And he has said there is no direct proof indicating Nagin traded benefits for money or services.

Cross examining Beninati, he questioned why she characterized payments from various contractors as bribes when they could easily be seen as investments. He focused often on payments from lead prosecution witness Rodney Williams, saying Williams - prior to pleading guilty in the case - had once claimed his payments to Nagin's family business were investments rather than bribes.

He also asked Beninati whether she misled jurors by displaying a chart indicating payments from Williams to Stone Age LLC - a Nagin family company - were made to Nagin himself.

"Mr. Nagin is Stone Age," Beninati said at one point.

It is unclear whether Nagin will testify in his own defense. The trial recessed for the day Wednesday afternoon after the defense called one witness, contractor Bill Edwards, who has done business with the city and who, under questioning from Jenkins, downplayed the role of the mayor in contracts awarded through public bids.

Earlier Wednesday, prosecutors called an investigative reporter to the stand to testify that Nagin tried to hide evidence of his meetings with businessmen who say they bribed the politician to get city backing for their projects.

Television reporter Lee Zurik talked about efforts to obtain Nagin's meeting calendars from 2008. Initially, he received pages with entries blacked out or blank. Under orders from a judge, Zurik said, WWL television was given a calendar with entries showing numerous meetings at different times with businessmen including Frank Fradella and Williams. Both men have said they bribed Nagin.

Zurik, now with WVUE in New Orleans, testified about Freedom of Information Act requests and a lawsuit that eventually led to the release of an un-redacted version of Nagin's meeting calendar.

In cross examination, defense lawyer Robert Jenkins said the city turned over the calendars, making the point that there was no evidence that Nagin made the changes.

Kathleen Allen, an attorney an official with the Louisiana Board of Ethics, later testified that Nagin failed to turn over various documents related to a board of investigation into the granite company he and his family owned.

Earlier Wednesday, IRS agent Tim Moore returned to the stand for cross examination by Jenkins.

On Tuesday, Moore had outlined allegations that Nagin failed to report income from various sources on his tax returns, including payments that Moore characterized as bribes.

Jenkins repeatedly noted the lack of voice or video recordings proving that bribes were paid.

Prosecutors began presenting their case last week, calling former city contractors and other witnesses and producing numerous emails and documents aimed at proving the former mayor received money, free vacation travel and free granite for his family business- bribes worth more than $500,000 - for helping contractors receive millions of dollars' worth of city work.

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Hennessy February 07 2014 at 2:47 AM

Besides morally failing people during Katrina you can add this to his um 'win' sheet. Bad politicians are bad politicians. Please leave behind the partisan mud slinging. It belittles the mud slinger more than object of derision. I really feel sorry for the many who see this as a Democratic failing more than the typical political entitlement graft & personal greed & corruption. Only one side has the crooked? The duplicitous?
Politicians-gotta love them. Like that recent Florida politician who wanted food benefit people drug tested but was busted in DC buying coke from an undercover fed. He was a Rep but does this mean only Reps use? Aren't you better than brain dead partisan idiocy to see the real truth.

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canoeal February 07 2014 at 12:02 AM

Another Democrat that thinks he won't get cauht or if caught , is smart enough to figure a way out...Not going to happen...

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theqwert39 February 06 2014 at 5:43 PM

It's too bad you pulled my comments. I was speaking as an investigator in Louisiana.

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drjothen February 06 2014 at 4:48 PM

None of this surprises me a single bit. I was in New Orleans for the National League of Cities Conference and we took a tour of 11 areas that were being rebuilt after Katrina. Turned out that all but 2 or 3, saw only between 2-4 inches of flooding. They were using the relief money to rebuild the blighted areas of New Orleans, while letting the affluent areas fight for themselves. It would be interesting to tour those areas in 10 years, to see if they are right back to the blighted conditions they were in pre-Katrina.

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atuu February 06 2014 at 5:19 PM

five years

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canoeal February 07 2014 at 12:04 AM

Something like tryig to make a silk purse out of a pigs ear...Heard that somewhere...

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j.koan February 06 2014 at 6:12 PM

Exactly drjothen !
Back in '96 hurricane Floyd destroyed four towns in my state. The more wealthy towns rebuilt themselves within a year. The one poorest town, yup you guessed it, was 100% black received no less than 1 mil from our state. It received no less than 2.8 mil from the federal government, not to mention the 200 BRAND NEW temp mobile units from FEMA at a cost of $180,000. 5 YEARS after the flood there were still 68 trailers STILL occupied by these people. FEMA had to get a court order to remove these people from the trailers. We REBUILT this town, new police, new fire, new housing within the town limits on an on it went. I visited this town in '12. It is NOW as run down as it was BEFORE the flood! Google Princeville, NC for yourself to verify what I am saying.

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misgsoft February 06 2014 at 3:54 PM

And nations leading dems supported this crook, hook line and sinker. It was NAGIN who dropped the Katrina ball plain and simple. Nagin let the "chocolate" people of HIS CHOCOLATE CITY down big time. Along with the CLUELESS, democratic gov at that time, Kathleen whatshername... I agree this guy and the EX mayor of Detroit should be locked up and the keys to their freedom be flushed down the toilet forever.

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Stan February 06 2014 at 3:26 PM

Ray Nagin and the X- mayor of Detroit should share cells, You weld the doors shut and thay get out when the welds. fall off..........

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mvnup February 06 2014 at 2:43 PM

Answer to burlareaguy
First of all it has not been proven that Christie had any part in the traffic jam. He has only been convicted by the left leaning media. Second as far as NJ governors go he is an extreme improvement over Corzine and McGreevy. Also if you look at NJ political history especially Newark you would discover that NJ has one of the highest numbers of corrupt politicians and the majority have been democrats. So stop picking on Christie he is the best chance to get things back on track for NJ.

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Rich February 06 2014 at 8:23 PM

Is it coincidence that when his popularity numbers went up, suddenly he lost favor with the TeaParty and quickly he is in all kinds of hot water, spurred on by his own fellow Republicans...... just saying!
BTW, I am a democrat who likes his straight forward approach, unlike Mitt (what do you want me to say) Romney. He pretty much lost because he couldn't keep both feet out of his mouth!

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canoeal February 07 2014 at 12:07 AM

Go to Illinois and live there. It is the state in the worst shape and all run by Dems...'Nough said...

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phd February 06 2014 at 2:36 PM

Gee, from the coverage, or really, lack of quality journalism, let me guess, what political party does this accused person belong to??? I will give you a minute or two to answer, but, when a politician gets in trouble, and the slavish media do not list his or her party affliation in the first paragraph or headline, it is, ta dah, DEMOCRATIC... How sad that readers have to inform other readers of important information....

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canoeal February 07 2014 at 12:08 AM

Article said so, learn how to read...

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endjunk09 February 06 2014 at 2:33 PM

Mr. Nagins allowed the people of the 9th ward to suffer great hardship. He could have done much more to help them before, during, & after Katrina. He did little to nothing to help the 8th ward residents escape the wrath of Katrina. Nagin could have sent bus transportation to the 9th to get people to higher ground. But of course these folks were neither rich nor white. Hang him!

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clistman February 06 2014 at 2:03 PM

Really if we are gonna do this why not go after every politician. Fact is every one of them is richer coming out than going in? I don t think they suddenly all got better in business?

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canoeal February 07 2014 at 12:09 AM

Two words: Term limits.

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