New Orleans, LA (CBS) - A jury has found former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin guilty of corruption for taking bribes while in office.
Nagin faced a 21-count indictment, and he was found guilty on 20 of them. Prosecutors had alleges he took bribes worth more than $500,000 in a string of criminal acts that began before Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005 and continued during the recovery.
The defense argued that the prosecution case was built on testimony from businessmen who entered plea deals and told prosecutors what they wanted to hear in hopes of getting light sentences.
Jurors got the case Monday afternoon. They had deliberated about three hours when they broke for the night. An unspecified medical problem affecting one juror cancelled Tuesday's deliberations. A court record gave no details but said the juror would be back Wednesday.
The trial opened with jury selection Jan. 27 and was interrupted for two days when a blast of icy weather hit the Deep South. Jurors heard seven days of testimony. Among more than two dozen prosecution witnesses were five who said they were involved in bribing the former mayor.
The alleged graft included money, free vacation travel and truckloads of granite for Stone Age LLC, a business Nagin and his sons owned.
Nagin, a Democrat who served two terms from 2002 to 2010, was the chief defense witness. He vehemently denied taking bribes. He said he was duty-bound to OK contracts awarded to low bidders or through a process in which committees recommended contractors. He denied that the contracts were tied in any way to money, materials or favors he or his family business received.
He also denied any tie between free vacation travel he received from businessmen and actions he took as mayor.
He said he thought his former technology chief, Greg Meffert, had paid for vacation trips to Hawaii and Jamaica when, it turned out, they were financed by convicted businessman Mark St. Pierre, a city vendor at the time.
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