Thursday, February 6, 2014




Prosecutor grills Ray Nagin as corruption trial nears end.
Ray Nagin takes the stand in his federal corruption trial in his own DEFENSE!
After two hours of friendly questioning by his own attorney, Ray Nagin on Thursday afternoon faced the federal prosecutor leading the charge against him in a federal courtroom.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Matt Coman began his cross-examination of the former New Orleans mayor by showing Nagin his oath of office, then he quickly switched gears, asking Nagin about his influence over city contracts, which are at the heart of the 21-count corruption case against him.
"Did you have discretion over contracts?" Coman. "Did you have sole discretion?"
"That's not how the process works, sir," Nagin replied.
The prosecutor responded by asking Nagin to read aloud portions of various executive orders and documents Nagin signed while in office, including a letter in which Nagin said he has "sole discretion" to select a contractor for the multi-million dollar French Market contract." Coman also asked Nagin to read a statute in an executive order he signed that read, "only the mayor may select a provider to receive a professional service contract." (Keep up with the trial in real time by reading our live coverage here.)
Nagin scoffed, telling Coman that he didn't "know what you're trying to say," when Coman asked Nagin about his influence over low-bid contracts. Nagin said while he signs the contracts as the city's chief executor, he doesn't have much to do with how they are awarded. But Coman presented for the jury an email from Nagin to his then-Chief Administrative Officer Brenda Hatfield in which Nagin asked for the phone numbers of all winning bidders in order to "call them personally so the key contact is not a department head but the mayor."
Still, Nagin mostly remained cool and calm under Coman's first hour of questioning, even joking with the prosecutor, who leaned against the witness stand as Nagin was reviewing a document.
When Nagin's defense attorney Robert Jenkins objected, Nagin offered with a laugh: "He's good, I can deal with him. Lean closer. We're friends."
Coman segued into questions about Rodney Williams, convicted president of Three Fold Consultants, who testified that he bribed the mayor. Nagin insisted that the fishing trip Williams financed for the mayor, and the economic development trip to Brazil they took together, were casual and did not result in any city business. Nagin told jurors that business for Three Fold Consultants exploded after Hurricane Katrina. But Coman said he believed it had more to do with a $60,000 payoff.
"You guys are trying to tie in the $60,000, God bless you," Nagin replied, chuckling. "I get it."
Coman then presented a 2007 document showing that the selection panel charged with reviewing professional service proposals did not recommend Three Fold Consultants for city work.
As the afternoon went on, Nagin started to show signs of agitation, especially when Coman began grilling Nagin on whether he and Williams were in contact while Williams was seeking a professional services contract. During direct questioning, Nagin told Jenkins that he hadn't spoken with Williams in late 2007 or early 2008. But Coman showed jurors phone records showing phone calls between Nagin and a number linked to Williams' late wife, Charlene.
That's the same day that Nagin's calendar shows a meeting at Stone Age. The government is trying to show that the meeting there was with Williams, who has pleaded guilty to federal crimes in the case.
Coman's questioning was rapid fire, prompting U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan at one point to admonish the prosecutor to let Nagin finish his answers.
Court broke for the day at 4 p.m. Questioning is expected to continue his cross-examination of Nagin Friday morning, when the trial resumes.
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