Hearing on Nagin's attempt to have part of conviction, tossed ou - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports, Social

Hearing on Nagin's attempt to have part of conviction, tossed out

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) -

As former mayor Ray Nagin continues to serve his prison sentence, his wife and some other family members sat in a federal appeals court Monday.

Nagin’s public defender tried to convince three federal court judges at the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeal in New Orleans to throw out some of Nagin’s convictions related to a wide ranging federal corruption case.

"These guys are taking a swing and they're trying to hit something out the park, but they're swinging blindly to a Nolan Ryan fast ball. I don't think they'll make the connection on this one,” said FOX 8 Legal Analyst Joe Raspanti.

Nagin is serving 10 years in prison after being convicted of 20 of the 21 counts brought against him by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The charges included bribery, wire fraud and money laundering.

Federal prosecutors convinced a jury that Nagin took money and expensive gifts from business people who were seeking lucrative city hall contracts.

As part of his appeal, Public Defender Jordan Siverd argued that District Court Judge Ginger Berrigan erred when she gave instructions to the jury about the federal law dealing with honest services. And now Nagin seeks to have nine of the counts on which he was convicted overthrown by the appellate court.

"This is a claim of instructional error,” said Siverd.

Federal prosecutors disagree.  Asst. U.S. Attorney Richard Pickens told the judges, "This was classic, you scratch my back, I'll scratchy your back."

The honest services statute has been used in other high profile federal cases involving elected officials.

"This honest services issue is the same issue that was in front of the court regarding Bill Jefferson, I think it applies here, I think they're not going to be successful in their appeal,” Raspanti said.

He said going into the appeal process, the defense faced a steep legal hill.

"Jury instructions are usually vetted by both sides in judges' chambers and unless there was an objection made prior to this you have to get what's called plain error to overturn something and that is very, very rare,” said Raspanti.

During his federal trial Ray Nagin took the stand in his own defense. He vehemently maintained that he did nothing wrong, and now his hopes lie with the court of appeal.

Nagin’s lawyer also argued that the judge was wrong to Nagin to forfeit more than $500,000.

"I think at the end of the day it's going to be moot, I don't think Mr. Nagin's got any money,” Raspanti stated.

Nagin’s appeal does not involve the 10-year sentence he received from Judge Berrigan.  He could have been sentenced to 15 to 20 years.

The three judge pane at the 5th Circuit did not indicate when it might rule.

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