Court now in session for Nagin sentencing

U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan has arrived in the federal courtroom where in a matter of minutes she will hand down a prison sentence to the first mayor in the history of New Orleans to be convicted on corruption charges.

Ray Nagin slipped quietly into the federal courthouse in New Orleans on Wednesday morning for this long-awaited moment, accompanied by friends and family.

Nagin, sporting a salt-and-pepper beard and a colorful tie, did not answer questions from the reporters gathered outside. But his attorney, Robert Jenkins, said the former mayor had not yet decided whether he would make any formal remarks to the judge before she hands down a sentence.

Spectators, including FBI and IRS agents who worked on the case, packed the courtroom Wednesday morning to await the outcome.

Nagin faces the likelihood of an extended stay in prison. A presentence investigation prepared by federal probation officers calls for a sentence of 20 years or more based on Nagin’s conviction in February on 20 counts of bribery, wire fraud, money laundering and filing false tax returns.

Berrigan has some discretion to veer from the federal sentencing guidelines that underlie the recommendation by probation officers, but not that much.

By now, Berrigan has performed her own calculation of the guidelines, using the same manual that the probation office uses. It allows only limited wiggle room. Among the potentially aggravating factors in Nagin’s sentence that Berrigan will have to weigh: Was Nagin the leader of a conspiracy involving five or more people? Did he obstruct justice by lying on the witness stand and to investigators? And what was the financial loss caused by his misdeeds?

Nagin will have a chance to address the court before Berrigan imposes her sentence, but it’s unclear whether he plans to do so, or what he might say. He has maintained his innocence throughout the investigation and trial.