April 15, 2015 / 6:42 PM / 3 years ago

Ex-New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin seeks to have conviction tossed

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Attorneys for former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, who is serving a 10-year sentence in federal prison for corruption, are seeking to have his 2014 conviction overturned because of what they say were flawed instructions given to the jury, court papers show.

Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin leaves the courthouse after being found guilty on graft charges in New Orleans, Louisiana February 12, 2014. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman

Nagin, 58, was convicted on 20 counts including bribery, conspiracy and money laundering, all tied to payments he received for granting city contracts during the recovery effort in the wake of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina.

He was thrust into the national spotlight in 2005 when the storm’s waters overwhelmed levees and flooded 80 percent of New Orleans, killing 1,500 people and causing some $80 billion in damage.

In a court papers filed on Tuesday, Nagin’s attorneys said the judge in the case erred in telling jurors to find him guilty of nine counts of fraud and one count of conspiracy even if he would have acted in the same way without the inducement of a payoff.

“But for the error, there is a reasonable probability that the jury would have acquitted Mr. Nagin on the honest services counts,” his attorneys wrote.

Guilty findings on the other 10 counts also should be thrown out because of “prejudicial spillover” from evidence presented on the other charges, his lawyers argued.

Nagin, a onetime cable company executive, served as New Orleans’ mayor from 2002 to 2010. He has said in court filings that he is nearly penniless and is being represented on appeal by public defenders.

Under federal sentencing rules, Nagin is expected to serve about 8-1/2 years in prison with good behavior.

Reporting by Jonathan Kaminsky; Editing by Bill Trott

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