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Breaking News: Ray Nagin Sentencing

Sentencing Day: Nagin's sentencing comes down to raw numbers

For Ray Nagin, the difference between 34 and 38 could equal the difference between 12 and 24 years in prison. Those numbers may not make much sense to most people, but they'll help U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan determine Nagin's sentence for his public corruption convictions.

Nagin's sentencing range is calculated on a points system - he's given points for the amount of money he was bribed, points for lying on the stand, maybe points for being a public official. And when those points are added up, the total will serve as a guide for the judge to hand down her sentence.

"The probation office does the grunt work of adding things up and totaling up," says FOX 8 legal analyst Joe Raspanti. "In this case, does she think he perjured himself, yes or no? That's plus two points. Does she think he's a high-ranking government official? Yes or no? How much money did he steal quantitatively? All these decisions go into the total of the points that are figured out. And she gets all that, hears what everybody else has to say, then she decides."

So let's take a closer look at the numbers and what they mean for the former mayor of New Orleans:

  • Raspanti says he thinks federal officials will determine Nagin was bribed between $400,000 and $1 million. According to federal guidelines, that would give Nagin 14 points.
  • Raspanti thinks Nagin will get an additional 14 points for receiving a bribe. And by his calculations, you add in two more points for receiving more than one bribe.
  • Two points for committing perjury.
  • Finally, Raspanti says Nagin gets four more points for being a high-level public official.

That would put Nagin at 36 points, according to our legal analyst's calculations.

Under the sentencing guidelines, 36 points would mean Nagin would be sentenced from 188 to 235 months in federal prison – more than 15 years, less than 20.

But Raspanti says the numbers for Nagin could be even higher. In a court filing, Nagin attorney Robert Jenkins asserts that the low end of federal guidelines at that time had Nagin in prison for 20 years.

"I think maybe that was him objecting to what the pre-sentencing report said, and that the pre-sentence report calculated a bigger number as far as quantity," says Raspanti. "I don't know, and once again I'm just guessing on my understanding of law. The interpretation of the facts is up to other people, ultimately up to one person to decide."

If Jenkins is correct, the guidelines for Nagin may recommend a jail sentence between 19 years, six months and 24 years, five months.

These sentencing guidelines are important because, most of the time, that's the range a judge will use to sentence a defendant. For Nagin, that's all up to Judge Berrigan.

"Judge Berrigan was nominated by a Democratic president," Raspanti notes. "Some people say she's liberal and she may be, in that way… But in my experience, when it comes down to sentencing - especially sentencing public officials - she follows the rules. And I don't think she's excessively liberal or lenient with her sentencing."

Raspanti says Nagin's sentence might have been much more lenient, had he accepted a plea deal.

"Ray Nagin was offered very good deals, based on what I've heard," says Raspanti, "prior to his indictment, prior to his trial. And he decided to say no to all that. Either he thought he was going to win and just charm that jury, or whatever his thinking was, he chose to go forward."

Raspanti says he believes prosecutors offered Nagin deals that would have put him in prison for anywhere between two and five years. "Whatever it was, it was in those kind of low numbers, which we say in our business you can do standing on your head," Raspanti tells us. "In some way [he] didn't want to do that, thought he could win."

So, instead of spending just a few years in federal prison as the result of a plea deal, Nagin will be listening and looking Wednesday morning for numbers such as 34, 36 or 38 – numbers, you now know, that could determine whether Nagin spends between 13 and more than 20 years in federal prison.

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