A new filing in the federal case against former Mayor Ray Nagin offers a sneak peek at the evidence prosecutors plan to introduce when the mayor is tried on corruption and bribery charges late next month.
The document is a list of “stipulations” agreed to by the government and Nagin’s lawyer, Robert Jenkins, that will allow a raft of documents to be admitted as evidence without the requirement that witnesses corroborate their authenticity.
The bulk of the documents are bank records, credit-card records and corporate documents associated with companies and people implicated in the scheme, in which Nagin stands accused of accepting roughly $200,000 worth of cash and gifts plus several truckloads of free granite in exchange for steering contracts to his benefactors. The filing lists at least 60 credit card and bank accounts from a dozen financial institutions that will be introduced as evidence.
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the financial records is that many are linked to David White, a restaurateur and former business partner of Nagin, and for many years his closest friend and confidant. White also served as the mayor’s campaign treasurer.
At least 15 of the accounts listed as evidence are linked to White, who has not been charged or implicated in the case. It’s not clear whether the long list points to a role for White in the case, or whether he is merely mentioned because he managed some of Nagin’s investments as well as his political war chest.
“That suggests to me that the government is just following the money, and perhaps some alleged bribe or extortion payments went through these accounts,” Loyola Law School professor Dane Ciolino said.
White did not return phone messages left Tuesday.
Other documents the feds are introducing make clear they are ready to tell a jury about each of the disparate schemes Nagin allegedly participated in. For instance, one aspect of the case involves an allegation that Nagin waived delinquent tax fees and overdue loan payments for a failed cinema in New Orleans East that the city had helped to subsidize after one of the theater’s owners flew the Nagin family to New York in 2006 and squired them about in limousines.
Though the owner was not named in the indictment, sources with knowledge of the probe have confirmed that George Solomon, one of the investors in the Grand of the East theater, bankrolled the Nagin family trip, which prosecutors say cost $23,500.
The new court filing links the allegation to Solomon more directly, saying that certain records of Southern Theatres will be introduced at trial. That company is Solomon’s alone, according to state records, and does not involve the other investors in the Grand of the East.
The filing also notes that records from VSS/VS&A Wings and NetJets, involving Nagin and Southern Theatres, will be introduced as evidence. NetJets provides private charter flights, and was presumably the company Solomon used to fly the Nagins to New York.
“One or more witnesses will come and testify that Mr. Nagin received a free private jet flight out of New Orleans, then the documents will show who paid for the flight and who was on the flight,” Ciolino predicted.
A NetJets spokeswoman said she could not “disclose any information about any of our customers or our passengers.”
A phone number for VSS/VS&A Wings could not be located.
Solomon has not been charged with a crime, though the indictment described the gift to Nagin as a “bribery/kickback payoff.” His lawyer, Phil Wittmann, declined to answer questions Tuesday about whether Solomon will be a witness at Nagin’s trial, set to begin Oct. 28.
The filing suggests that prosecutors plan to zero in on the exclusive countertop-installation contract that Stone Age, the Nagin family granite firm, landed with Home Depot around the same time the retailing giant was negotiating with City Hall on tax breaks and the price for city streets it needed.
Among other records, prosecutors plan to introduce “correspondence and documents related to C. Ray Nagin and Home Depot” and an appraisal done by James A. Wadick on the city streets Home Depot wanted to purchase. Wadick valued the streets at $840,000, but the city eventually sold them for just $100,000, though some emails and other records show the lower price was supported by other officials, including City Councilwoman Stacy Head.
Other well-known aspects of the Nagin case also will figure in the trial. For instance, the filing mentions documents from Randy’s Lawn Care, whose owner has said he provided landscaping services to Nagin that were paid for by City Hall tech vendor Mark St. Pierre. It also notes documents from a company called Cargo-Master, an interstate transport firm that a source said was involved in transporting free granite to Stone Age. Company officials did not return messages.
The filing also introduces what could be a couple of new aspects to the case. Among the records that will be entered into evidence are records from Louise S. McGehee School, where Nagin’s daughter was enrolled before the family moved to Frisco, Texas; and a “rental appraisal” for the townhouse in Frisco that the Nagin family rented in 2005, and later bought.
It’s not clear why the rental appraisal is relevant to the case.
Likewise, the mention of McGehee is the first time the school has made an appearance in the case.
A school spokeswoman said Tuesday that the school cannot comment on former students’ records, or those of their families.
Paul Murphy of WWL-TV contributed to this report.