[Editor's Note: Clancy DuBos is publisher of New Orleans' Gambit.]
We’re not supposed to rejoice at the suffering of others, but the federal indictment of former Mayor Ray Nagin last Friday was nonetheless a cause for a celebration of sorts. Not because Nagin may suffer for his alleged crimes — though he should suffer if he’s convicted — but because now there will be a reckoning.
Now, finally, that clueless, narcissistic poseur will be called to account for some of his many sins against New Orleans.
Oh, happy day.
According to the 21-count indictment, Nagin took more than $200,000 in bribes from at least four city contractors to whom he steered recovery contracts after Hurricane Katrina. All four of them — Rodney Williams, Frank Fradella, Mark St. Pierre and Aaron Bennett — have already been convicted on various federal charges, some of them linked directly to Nagin’s indictment. He also allegedly got free private jet travel and limos (collectively worth more than $20,000) from Businessman A in exchange for favorable tax treatment by City Hall.
Friday’s indictment includes six counts of bribery, nine counts of deprivation of honest services through wire fraud, four counts of filing false tax returns, one count of conspiracy and one count of money laundering. He faces decades behind bars if convicted on all counts.
The indictment does not charge Nagin’s two sons, Jeremy and Jarin, but it obliquely refers to them as Family Members 1 and 2 — who allegedly got $10,000 in cash from Williams. Nagin foolishly declined a plea deal that reportedly would have let his sons walk, but they’re not out of the woods yet. They could still stand trial alongside their father if there’s a superseding indictment.
As horrible as all that sounds for Nagin, he will not be punished for his greatest crimes. For example, he will never pay for flying his entire family to Jamaica, first class, on St. Pierre’s dime, just 82 days after Katrina so that he could chill while thousands of his constituents struggled to get back to their flood-ravaged homes. In fact, he never even apologized for that now-infamous act of indifference. Clearly, the guy had a profoundly misplaced sense of entitlement as mayor.
He’ll also never be held accountable for completely bungling our city’s post-Katrina recovery, for setting us back years because he was more concerned about himself than his city. For hiring the equally narcissistic and bombastic Ed Blakely. For destroying — or allowing the destruction of — public records that were requested of his administration. For the post-Katrina New Orleans Affordable Homeownership scandal. Or for the corrupt crime camera debacle that his now-convicted IT chief, Greg Meffert, foisted on us with his partner-in-crime St. Pierre. Ironically, St. Pierre and Meffert may testify against Nagin at trial. There’s some justice in that.
None of this is pleasant. So why do I rejoice?
I rejoice because maybe, just maybe, the justice that Nagin now faces may help dry the tears shed by the thousands he let down so completely, whose trust he betrayed so unconscionably, whose futures he sold out so reprehensibly, whose needs he ignored so cavalierly.
I rejoice because, at long last, the grifter who cowed in the face of great challenge, who thought only of himself while the city and the people he swore to serve faced their darkest hour, will now be held to account.
I rejoice for the reckoning that I pray will come. But mostly I rejoice in the hope that Nagin’s demise will bring a healing, a closure, to our beloved city and its deeply wounded people.
Oh, happy day.
A VERY SPECIAL HAT TIP: Huge props are due local blogger Jason Berry, whose American Zombie investigative blog was the first to expose Nagin, Meffert, St. Pierre and others for many of the allegations now contained in the federal indictment of Nagin. Bloggers are too often disparaged for their free-wheeling commentary and not often enough given their due for their groundbreaking investigative work. Berry deserves the thanks and praise of all honest New Orleanians. Without him this day might never have come.
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SEP 2 North Carolina's film tax incentive is about to expire, and Louisiana is getting the first benefit, this story on the Wilmington NC newspaper's website tells us. 'Banshee,' a Cinemax series from the same guy who created 'True Blood,' is moving production to New Orleans, the story says.
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SEP 2 Huff Post takes a look at a project by a California university which mapped hate speech on Twitter. The project counted derogatory words for homosexuals, people of different races and people with disabilities, then used colors to show where the tweets using these words originated. Spoiler alert: We don't look too good.
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SEP 2 St. Mary Parish homegirl Julie Hébert lets us in on the next step in her career in this blog post. The writer/director, who has worked on shows like ER, West Wing, Numb3rs and Third Watch, has teamed up with John Ridley, the Academy Award winning screenwriter of 12 Years a Slave, for a new ABC series that will be filmed in Austin.
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AUG 29 Everyone who cares about Louisiana should take time to peruse this story about coastal loss from Bob Marshall of The Lens. It's not enough to call it a story; it's an interactive experience packed with data and amazing graphics, timelines, history, photos and excellent writing. Set aside some time, because you can't go through this one in a few minutes.
AUG 29 Huffington Post has a blog called Love Letters, which is grandly described as "an anthology of reflections on places the world over." This entry is from LSU Football Coach Les Miles, who, it appears, loves Baton Rouge. (Of course he does; he's a rich straight white man.) And certainly Baton Rouge loves him - unless he loses (ask Curley "Golden Flake" Hallman about that) or leaves (ask Nick Saban).
AUG 29 This story by WVLA tells us about a guy who got busted for speeding in Baton Rouge. Who cares? This guy took that infraction to new heights by going 129 miles per hour on Nicholson Drive. Poor fella - he probably has spent so much time sitting in Baton Rouge traffic he just had to cut lose.
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