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Bribery trial opens for ex-New Orleans mayor

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 27, 2014 at 5:45 pm •  Published: January 27, 2014

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A first day of jury selection for the bribery trial of former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin ended Monday without a panel being seated.

U.S. District Judge Helen Berrigan questioned 60 prospective jurors before sending them home. Berrigan said she needs to speak with one more prospective juror before the group can be empaneled.

The court will not be in session Tuesday because of the forecast of icy weather in New Orleans. Weather permitting, the court said it plans to resume the selection process Wednesday at noon.

Nagin, a Democrat who was mayor when Hurricane Katrina stuck in 2005, served two terms before leaving office in 2010. He was living in a Dallas suburb when a federal grand jury indicted him a year ago. He faces charges of accepting bribes and free trips among other things from contractors in exchange for helping them secure millions of dollars in city work.

Nagin had little to say as he entered the federal courthouse with a noticeable limp.

Each bribery count carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. Each wire fraud count is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

The charges are the product of a City Hall corruption investigation that already has resulted in several convictions or guilty pleas by former Nagin associates.

Nagin's 21-count indictment accuses him of accepting more than $160,000 in bribes and truckloads of free granite for his family business in exchange for promoting the interests of local businessman Frank Fradella. Nagin also was charged with accepting at least $60,000 in payoffs from another businessman, Rodney Williams, for his help in securing city contracts.

The indictment claims Nagin received free private jet and limousine services to New York from an unidentified businessman who owned a New Orleans movie theater. Nagin allegedly agreed to waive tax penalties the businessman owed to the city on a delinquent tax bill in 2006.

From several city contractors, Nagin is accused of accepting free travel and vacation expenses for trips to Hawaii, Chicago, Las Vegas and Jamaica while in office.

The allegations aren't limited to his tenure as mayor. Prosecutors said Nagin accepted monthly payoffs from Fradella totaling $112,250 after he left office.

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