Former councilman, convicted felon has advice for Ray Nagin

Former New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin (AP Photo)
Former New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin (AP Photo)

Former New Orleans City Councilman and convicted felon Oliver Thomas says he has empathy for Ray Nagin ahead of Wednesday's sentencing.

Oliver Thomas says for him, the night before being sentenced, was a nerve-wracking one.

"There's a bit of a downward feeling in terms of your confidence and how you feel about yourself and there's always a feeling of disappoint," Thomas explained.

Physically being put behind bars is something Thomas never imagined. He pleaded guilty in 2007 to accepting a bribe from a businessman who was trying to hold on to a parking lot contract with the city. The former councilman says life in prison can be as difficult as one chooses to make it.

"What I would recommend and what I did, was not really look at what was, but how do you improve because of it, how do you look at your character, your integrity?" said Thomas.

Thomas served two years. First he spent time at a high level prison, then was sent to two different prison camps. He passed his time working and trying to stay busy.

"What I recommend to former mayor Nagin and other folk who are educated is to teach classes, help some of the younger guys who are going to be getting out," said Thomas.

Ray Nagin has maintained his innocence, even as former friends and city vendors accepted deals with the government and in turn testified against him. Thomas says if he were Nagin, he would've cooperated with the government.

"Hindsight is 20/20 absolutely. Anytime you're facing potentially eight to 12 to 15 or 20 years, yeah, hell yeah," said Thomas.

Thomas says he's praying for Ray Nagin and his family and has this last piece of advice.

"This is not the end. As long as you have breath in your life and as long as you have challenges and hurdles to overcome, you just have to figure out a way to jump over those hurdles," said Thomas.

Oliver Thomas now works as a radio host at WBOK. He also mentors young people in his spare time, talking to them about his time in prison, while encouraging them to avoid a life of crime.

Follow FOX 8:    

Copyright 2014 WVUE. All rights reserved.