NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges he accepted more than $200,000 in bribes plus free trips and other gratuities in exchange for helping contractors secure millions of dollars in work for the city.
U.S. Magistrate Sally Shushan set Nagin’s bond at $100,000 during his arraignment on charges that include bribery, wire fraud and filing false tax returns. She also set a preliminary trial date of April 29.
The charges against Nagin are the product of a City Hall corruption investigation that already has resulted in guilty pleas by two former city officials and two businessmen and a prison sentence for a former city vendor.
His arraignment marked a rare public appearance for Nagin, who now lives in Frisco, Texas, and has kept a low-profile since he left office in 2010.
Nagin didn’t answer reporters’ questions as he entered and left the courthouse, trailed by a gaggle of television cameras and news photographers. He didn’t say much in court, either, except for responding to a series of routine yes-or-no questions from Shushan and uttering the words “not guilty” 21 times — once for each count he faces.
Nagin has to surrender his passport and needs permission from court officials to travel outside Louisiana and Texas while the case is pending.
Nagin was a political novice before he was first elected mayor in 2002, but Hurricane Katrina turned him into a national figure with a reputation for cringe-inducing rhetoric. His popularity steadily waned in the aftermath of the 2005 storm, as the city struggled to recover from the epic flooding unleashed by broken levees.
An indictment last month accuses Nagin, 56, of accepting more than $160,000 in bribes and truckloads of free granite for his family business in exchange for promoting the interests of Frank Fradella, a local businessman. Fradella pleaded guilty in June to conspiracy to commit bribery and has been cooperating with federal authorities.