When Ray Nagin was elected mayor in 2002, there was real hope that he was a break from the city’s sleazy past.
Three years later, with his city awash in foul water and rotting corpses, he became something of a national cult hero, raging against the slow, incompetent federal response to his crippled city’s plight.
“Excuse my French — everybody in America — but I am pissed,” he shouted during a radio appearance three days after Hurricane Katrina swamped the Crescent City.
In the end, though, Ray Nagin turned out to be a feckless mayor and, as a federal judge saw it, a lightweight criminal.
“He started out as a rock star and he ended up as just another crass, corrupt politician,” said University of New Orleans political science professor Ed Chervenak.
Nagin, a 58-year-old former cable-television manager, was sentenced to 10 years in prison Wednesday for bribery, money laundering, fraud and tax violations stemming from his two terms as New Orleans’ mayor from 2002 to 2010. To longtime civil-rights attorney Mary Howell, who watched the Democrat with cautious optimism during his 2002 campaign, Nagin seemed to promise at least something new.
She, like so many others, was wrong.
“I think people were really just kind of worn out by the same old, same old. And he really appeared on the horizon as something that was new and fresh,” she said. “I think it would be fair to say, almost across the board, that for many people he was, his administration turned out to be a deep disappointment — and then a disaster. “