July 22, 2014

USA: George Carlin Gets Manhattan Street Named In His Honor, After Compromise With Catholic Church :)

The New York Daily News
written by Erin Durkin
Wednesday July 9, 2014

Legendary comedian George Carlin now has a Manhattan street named in his honor, but it took a compromise with an old nemesis — the Catholic Church — to make it happen.

Mayor de Blasio signed legislation Wednesday renaming W. 121st St. between Morningside Drive and Amsterdam Ave. as “George Carlin Way” for the “Seven Dirty Words” comic.

That’s one block from the Morningside Heights block where Carlin grew up — because the Catholic Church did not want his name displayed on the stretch where Corpus Christi Church is located.

Although he was born Catholic, Carlin was no altar boy. In his routines, he often took aim at organized religion in general and at the Catholic Church in particular.

“It was an acrimonious relationship. But we’re pleased with the resolution,” said Joseph Rosenberg of the Catholic Community Relations Council.

“The church just didn’t want the sign to be on the block where Corpus Christi Church was. We were never opposed to a street co-naming, we just didn’t want it on that block.”

The distaste was mutual: Carlin, who attended both the Corpus Christi Church and its school as a boy, once quipped, “I used to be Irish Catholic. Now I’m an American.”

A previous effort to name a street for Carlin, who died in 2008, fizzled amid opposition from the church, but the local community board endorsed the compromise to honor him one block over.

A bill drafted this year by the City Council included both blocks, in what officials described as a mistake. The language was tweaked at the last minute.

As he signed the bill, de Blasio called the renaming “one I’m sure a lot of people have an opinion on. I have a good opinion.”

Carlin was “a New Yorker whose voice was heard literally around the world, born and raised in Morningside Heights, a true New Yorker, told it like it was, smart and blunt and honest and not afraid of controversy,” he said.

“It is only fitting that the corner of a street where a young Carlin once lived and entertained his neighbors will now bear his name,” said Councilman Mark Levine (D-Manhattan), who sponsored the name change.

USA: Prostitute With AIDS Charged With Knowingly Spreading HIV

Inquistr news
written by Staff
Sunday July 6, 2014

A prostitute named Antionette Clark is being charged with the crime of knowingly exposing her clients to the HIV virus.

In a related report by The Inquisitr, a woman named Kirsty Edmondson made a sex tape next to the dead body of her murder victim, and even posted selfies online for everyone to see.

Columbia police say they caught 20-year-old Clark allegedly posted an online ad related to sex. According to the probable cause statement, an undercover cop arrested her after she agreed to have sex for money.

But then the case became even worse:
“Originally charged with prostitution, a misdemeanor, in late June, Antionette L. Clark now faces the felony of knowingly being infected with HIV while performing the act of prostitution after prosecutors amended the case this week. Columbia resident Clark was arrested June 19 at a hotel in the 900 block of Port Way in east Columbia during an undercover operation.”
Clark was originally charged with misdemeanor prostitution but when she admitted she knew she was HIV positive the prosecutors amended the charges to include knowingly being infected with HIV while performing the act of prostitution.

The case is a big deal for the area since Boone County only has 221 people infected with HIV, which represents 0.0013 percent of the population according to a 2013 census. Andrea Waner, spokeswoman for the health department, does point out that symptoms can sometimes take years to show up, but it is still pretty rare for anyone to knowingly expose anyone to the risk of contracting HIV:
“I think that overall people living with HIV are responsible and are taking precautions to protect their own health from other issues and also to protect the health of people around them.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 1.2 million Americans are HIV-positive in the United States, but only 940,000 know this to be the case. 34 states have made it illegal to knowingly spread the virus and in the worst cases some people have been sentenced to many years in prison, with some people even claiming the death penalty was necessary.

What do you think is a reasonable punishment for someone who knowingly spreads the HIV virus without warning others? Or do you think it should be a crime at all?

USA: Violent Weekend, 40 Shot, 4 Killed In Chicago By Street Gangs Including 11-Year-Old, Shamiya Adams. Chicago Has Strictest Gun Control Laws In America.

This guy tells it like it is and I like how he describes the inner city of Chicago, Chiraq! Yes, because innocent people are being killed at the same rate or close to the massacres in Iraq. These street gangs are no different than the Islamist militants around the world. Well, the Islamist militants are beheading, executing, stoning, gang-raping hmm what else oh yeah bombing buildings, roads, bridges. They are the same in that both are extremely evil, they have no conscience and have no respect for human life or civilization.

The following data is taken from Chicago Tribune webpage titled, Crime in Chicagoland that keeps track of these figures on a daily basis for the public.

Chicago homicides January 1, 2014 - Present: 207
Chicago shooting victims January 1, 2014 - July 14, 2014: 1,254

The New York Daily News
written by Doyle Murphy
Sunday July 20, 2014

A stray bullet killed an 11-year-old Chicago girl playing at a sleepover during a bloody weekend in the city.

Shamiya Adams and friends were eating s’mores around a pretend campfire on Friday night when the bullet ripped through the house and slammed into the little girl’s head, CBS Chicago reported.

Distraught relatives rushed to Mt. Sinai Hospital where they stood vigil, crying out early Saturday morning when they learned Shamiya had died.

“A great-grandmother should not have to bury her great grandchild,” Shamiya’s great-grandmother, Lourene Miller, told ABC 7. “This is a pain I can’t even explain it hurts so bad.”

Cops are still searching for the killer, and local political and religious leaders have offered an $8,000 reward for information.

Investigators are hopeful surveillance cameras in the Garfield Park neighborhood will provide clues, according to media reports.
Shamiya’s death was part of a brutal round of shootings on Friday night into Saturday morning.

More than 20 people, including a 12-year-old girl, were wounded in little more than 12 hours, the Chicago Tribune reported.
The girl was shot in the foot when unknown shooters opened fire on her, a 33-year-old woman and a 44-year-old man on Friday afternoon.

All three survived the attack, the newspaper reported.

Three 15-year-old boys were wounded by gunfire in three separate incidents during the bloody span of attacks, and a 30-year-old man was found dead in a car about 3 a.m. on Saturday.

His body was riddled with bullets, slumped over in the front seat, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel choked back tears after speaking to Shamiya’s mother.

“I got nothing left to say to these moms,” Emanuel told reporters. “I don’t know where they find the strength to go, put one foot in front of another. We’re a better city than that. We’re better people.”

Miller, Shamiya’s great-grandmother, pleaded for an end to the gun violence.

“People got to learn to put the guns down,” Miller told ABC 7. “They do too much damage. They cause too much pain. Not just Shamiya’s life gone, but the boy — whoever did it — his life is gone too, because he’s going to be behind bar.”

Breitbart News
written by Warner Todd Huston
Monday July 21, 2014

Chicago once again boiled over this weekend with gang violence driven by the Mexican cartels and their drug trade. Forty were shot and four killed, including an 11-year-old girl.

The girl, Shamiya Adams, was struck by a stray bullet that entered through a window where she was attending a sleepover.

The violence was so heavy that during a 12-hour period between Friday evening and Saturday morning, 22 people were shot in Mayor Rahm Emanuel's city.

It was during this 12-hour bloodletting that the girl was shot in the head in the West Garfield Park neighborhood.

Six hours later, a second person was gunned down in Chicago. By Sunday afternoon, two more were killed.

Chicago's NBC affiliate reported that between Friday at 12 a.m. and Sunday afternoon, 40 had been shot over the July 18 weekend.

Those killed were 11-year-old Shamiya and three males, 21, 24, and 30 years of age.

Thus far in July, 34 Chicagoans have been killed and 188 wounded.

USA: Michigan Toddler Shot Point Blank In Face, Neighbors Respond In Outrage Claiming It Violated The ‘Code Of The Streets’. Michigan Has Strict Gun Control Laws.

Inquistr news
written by Staff
Thursday July 3, 2014

A fatal shooting in a Detroit suburb ended in tragedy as an innocent toddler paid the ultimate price as she became a victim in response to a nightclub shooting that happened in April of this year.

The unspeakable incident occurred Tuesday in Inkster Michigan as 2 year old Kamiya French was playing outside in her front yard, supervised by her father and a 12 year old girl. The attacker walked into the yard and shot Kamiya point blank in the face, killing her instantly. Her father was shot multiple times resulting in non-life threatening wounds. The 12 year old girl, Chelsea Lancaster was a relative of Kamiya, was critically injured.

Monique Cruz, a neighbor, stated:
“This Inkster, stuff like this happens all the time, but not to kids. Not the babies. It don’t make sense because her daddy is loved by everybody.”
A neighbor visiting the area described the scene, still in shock. Andy Anderson was visiting family that lived nearby and witnessed the shooting. He explained that the shooter walked toward the children and shot Kamiya first at point blank range before moving his aim toward the other two.
“He shot the baby. I thought, no, he didn’t. And then he turned the gun and started shooting the porch.”
Andy Anderson took cover behind a car, worried that the shooter would focus his aim on the onlookers as well. He continued to explain that the gunman arrived in a van that was driven by another individual. When the shooter finished murdering Kamiya and wounding the others, he returned to the van and left promptly.

In less than two weeks, Kamiya would be turning 3.

Police do not believe that the children were targeted, but instead became victims of circumstance. The shooting suspect was later arrested at his girlfriend’s house and they are still searching for the driver of the van.

Antwan Harrison, another neighbor, was outraged by the incident:
“We’re talking about a senseless murder. A guy with no morals. The innocent shouldn’t have to pay for our suffering.”
Community activist, Aaron Simms, is organizing a vigil for Kamiya and is placing signs throughout the neighborhood that read, “I am not a snitch, I am a neighbor.” He went on to say:
“People are just shooting because they don’t know how to do anything else”

On a positive note, Chelsea Lancaster’s family stated that although she was shot in the leg and stomach, her surgery went well and she is not paralyzed. Her grandmother, Porcia Holt, said:

“She woke up, opened her yes and squeezes her mom’s hand”

VENEZUELA: Venezuelan Airport Now Charges Passengers For The Air They Breathe :o

FOX News Latino
written by Staff
Monday July 21, 2014

Travelers who use the Maiquetía International Airport in Caracas and are paying attention may be quite surprised to see that, in Nicolas’ Maduro Venezuela, breathing comes with a cost.

Starting July 1, every passenger departing Maiquetía has to pay 127 bolivares (somewhere between $2 and $20, depending on the exchange rate used) during check-in, in order to pay for the air conditioner that now flows out of the airport’s ducts.

In a press release, the Maiquetia Airport said the project was put in place to ensure the quality of oxygen and keep the premises free of pathogens.

Some 30,000 passengers use the facility every day, according to El Nacional newspaper.

The new tax has generated all kinds of reactions in the Latin American country, mostly outrage, as the new fee must be added to the already exorbitant airline tickets.

Most international airlines have ceased operations in the country and the reduced number of flights has sent ticket prices to the moon: such is the crisis that a Caracas-Miami ticket these days can cost close to $4,000.

"We are on the path to getting Venezuela isolated and to having to do as Cubans do, who throw themselves to the sharks to be able to get other countries,” said Ibrahín Rojas, a Venezuelan citizen, to Spanish daily ABC, while trying to buy flights to Miami.

At the center of the problem is that foreign airlines are no longer allowed to send back their profits.

According to International Air Transport Association, foreign carriers are owed $4 billion from their Venezuela sales.

A couple of weeks ago, United Airlines became the latest to announce it will reduce flights to Venezuela. American Airlines Group Inc., Delta Air Lines Inc. and several foreign airlines have previously announced cutbacks.

American Airlines now has 10 weekly flights to Venezuela, down from 48 last month.

July 21, 2014

USA: California State Senator Representing Montebello, Democrat Ron Calderon, Indicted On Two Dozen Counts Of Bribery, Fraud, Money Laundering And Other Charges.

I couldn't find this information in any of the articles that I read about his indictment. I thought it was important to know what area he represented.
Ron Calderon was elected to the 30th Senate District, which includes: Bell, Bell Gardens, Commerce, Cudahy, Huntington Park, La Mirada, Los Angeles, Montebello, Norwalk, Pico Rivera, California, Santa Fe Springs, South El Monte, South Gate, Whittier, East La Mirada, East Los Angeles, Florence-Graham, Hacienda Heights, South Whittier, and West Whittier.[source: wikipedia]
Reuters News
written by Dan Whitcomb
Friday February 21, 2014

A California state senator has been indicted on federal charges that he accepted some $100,000 in bribes from a businessman and undercover FBI agents posing as Hollywood movie executives in exchange for steering legislation in their favor, prosecutors said on Friday.

Democrat Ron Calderon, 56, has agreed to turn himself in on Monday to face two dozen counts of bribery, fraud, money laundering and other charges, said Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles.

Calderon's brother, Tom Calderon, a former member of the California State Assembly, was also named in the U.S. District Court indictment and charged with conspiracy and seven counts of money laundering. Tom Calderon, 59, has surrendered to federal authorities and was expected to face an arraignment on Friday, Mrozek said.

"Public corruption is a betrayal of the public trust that threatens the integrity of our democratic institutions," U.S. Attorney André Birotte said in announcing the charges.

"Senator Calderon is accused of accepting tens of thousands of dollars in bribes and using the powers of his elected office to enrich himself and his brother Tom, rather than for the benefit of the public he was sworn to serve," Birotte said.

Phone calls made to Ron Calderon's offices in the Los Angeles area and in Sacramento were not answered on Friday.

According to a 28-page indictment handed down on Thursday, Ron Calderon is accused of accepting roughly $100,000 in cash bribes, along with plane trips, golf outings and jobs for his children, in exchange for influencing legislation.


In one of those schemes, prosecutors say, the senator took bribes from Long Beach, California, hospital owner Michael Drobot to preserve a legislative loophole that allowed Drobot to defraud the state's health care system out of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Drobot has agreed to plead guilty to separate charges stemming from that scheme and is cooperating in the case against the Calderon brothers, Mrozek said.

Ron Calderon is also accused of taking bribes from undercover FBI agents who he thought worked for an independent Hollywood movie studio in exchange for supporting an expansion of film tax credits in California.

Both Calderons, part of a powerful family dynasty in California state politics dating back several decades, are accused of laundering the bribe money by funneling it through Tom Calderon's consulting firm, Californians for Diversity.

If convicted at trial, Ron Calderon, who also faces tax fraud charges, could face a statutory maximum of nearly 400 years in prison, although federal sentencing guidelines typically call for much less time. Tom Calderon could face a maximum of 160 years behind bars.

In June, FBI agents raided the Sacramento offices of Ron Calderon and the legislature's Latino Caucus, of which he was a member of the executive board.

At the time, high-profile Los Angeles attorney Mark Geragos told the Sacramento Bee newspaper that prosecutors had no case against Calderon and should be "ashamed of themselves" because he believed they had leaked word of the raid to the media.

Geragos could not be reached for comment on Friday afternoon and his office declined to say if he was still representing Calderon.

In November, Calderon was removed from the board of the Latino Caucus and from his legislative committee assignments by his colleagues because of the investigation.

If convicted at trial, Ron Calderon, who also faces tax fraud charges, could face a statutory maximum of nearly 400 years in prison, although federal sentencing guidelines typically call for much less time. Tom Calderon could face a maximum of 160 years behind bars.
Fox New Latino
written by AP staff
February 22, 2014

A California state senator was charged Friday with accepting $100,000 in bribes, lavish trips and no-show jobs for his children in exchange for pushing legislation to benefit a hospital engaged in billing fraud and participating in a film industry tax scheme that actually was an FBI sting.

The 24-count federal indictment against Sen. Ron Calderon, a Democrat from a politically prominent family in Los Angeles' blue-collar suburbs, depicts a rogue legislator eager to trade his clout at the state Capitol to enrich himself and his family. His brother Tom, a former state lawmaker-turned-lobbyist, was charged with money-laundering for funneling bribes through a tax-exempt group he controlled, prosecutors said.

"When public officials choose to callously betray the trust of the people they serve and selfishly abuse the privileges of public office, then we will take all necessary steps to hold those persons fully accountable for their behavior," U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte said.

The charges come after a long-running corruption investigation that has tarnished the state's majority party — Democrats hold every statewide office and control both chambers in the Legislature. The charges also threaten the patriarchs of a family that rose to political prominence from the heavily Hispanic, working-class communities southeast of Los Angeles.

"Because they knew how to run elections and they knew how to speak to a newly incorporating group, Latinos, they knew how to get people elected," said political scientist Fernando Guerra, director of the Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University. For any would-be candidate around their home base "you needed their support."

If convicted on all counts, Ron Calderon, who is expected to surrender Monday, could face nearly 400 years in federal prison. His brother, if convicted, could face a maximum penalty of 160 years in confinement, prosecutors said.

The indictment details a rampant pay-to-play culture in which Ron Calderon used his influence in the Legislature to extract money or other financial benefits from those who wanted favors.

Those bribes, prosecutors said, included trips to Las Vegas, flights on privately chartered planes and jobs for Ron Calderon's son and daughter in which they were paid but did little, if any, work. The film studio, an FBI ruse, hired his daughter for a $3,000-a-month job, and a Long Beach hospital executive involved in the medical scam hired his son for three summers at a rate of $10,000 per summer, the indictment said.

USA: CA State Senate Democrats Blocked A Republican Bill That Proposed Some Of The Toughest Ethics And Campaign Finance Restrictions.

The Los Angeles Times
written by Patrick McGreevy
June 24, 2014

State Senate Democrats on Tuesday blocked a Republican bill that proposed some of the toughest ethics and campaign finance restrictions put forward since three Democratic lawmakers were suspended while facing criminal charges, two of them involving corruption.

SB 1379 fell one vote short of the majority needed to pass out of the Senate Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee after Democratic Sens. Hannah-Beth Jackson of Santa Barbara and Loni Hancock of Berkeley withheld their votes. Two other Democrats voted for the measure, and Republican Sen. Joel Anderson of San Diego voted no.

The Republican proposal would have required faster public disclosure of campaign contributions, prohibited lawmakers from paying their spouses and children with campaign funds, barred the use of certain political funds for criminal defense expenses and doubled the penalty for bribery convictions.

“The unprecedented corruption charges brought against two members of this house has caused many of us to look at both campaign finance and ethical reforms,” Senate Republican leader Bob Huff of Diamond Bar told the panel.

He cited the suspension of Democratic Sens. Leland Yee of San Francisco, Ronald S. Calderon of Montebello and Roderick Wright of the Inglewood area.

Wright has been convicted of perjury and voter fraud for lying about living in his Senate district, while Calderon and Yee have been charged with accepting payments for official favors.

“Due to bad behavior alleged against the suspended members, the integrity of the Senate has been dealt a serious blow,” Huff said. “We have to act with urgency to strengthen current law in order to win back the public trust.”

Hancock withheld her vote because she wanted more analysis of the impact of the proposed longer criminal penalties in the bill, according to spokesman Larry Levin. Jackson did not say why she withheld her vote.

Meanwhile, a bill that would create a campaign fundraising blackout at the end of the legislative session stalled in an Assembly committee Tuesday on a 1-1 vote, with four assemblymembers withholding their votes. Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) authored SB 1101.

“I believe that a fundraising blackout period, particularly at the end of legislative session, is good public policy,” Padilla said. “It shows we are serious about reform and committed to separating fundraising and votes. I am disappointed that the bill did not pass.”

San Jose Mercury News
written by Jessica Calefati
July 6, 2014

SACRAMENTO -- After state Sen. Leland Yee's stunning arrest earlier this year, the Legislature's highest-ranking member urged his colleagues to finally fix a long-standing problem in California politics -- the corrupting allure of money.

"Sometimes it takes a crisis," Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said after denouncing the San Francisco Democrat's alleged ties to international gunrunning during a speech on the Senate floor.

Since voting to suspend Yee and two other California senators indicted in recent months, Sacramento lawmakers have held a "day of reflection" and considered more than a dozen new pieces of ethics reform legislation. But while support for bills requiring more disclosure of gifts and contributions remains strong, interest in tougher proposals that would restrict politicians' fundraising and access to lavish free trips around the globe has waned significantly in the last three months.

"You can't be against an ethics bill the day after the scandal, but it's no longer the day after the scandal," said Jessica Levinson, a Loyola Law School professor who specializes in campaign finance law.

Proposals that seek to ban fundraisers at lobbyists' homes, double the amount of campaign finance reporting required annually and limit the value of gifts lawmakers can receive from outside groups passed nearly unanimously.

These are worthy pursuits, Levinson said, but they're clearly not the kind of systemic changes Steinberg was talking about several months ago when he lamented the distrust sown by the "legal, acceptable and necessary" truth that money can corrupt.

"We're nibbling around the edges, grabbing the low-hanging fruit," Levinson said.

In February, Sen. Alex Padilla introduced a bill that would create fundraising "blackout" periods when lawmakers running for re-election are barred from accepting campaign contributions. Under the proposal, fundraising while negotiating the budget and during the last several weeks of the legislative session would be forbidden.

Lawmakers have tried to impose such blackout periods three other times over the past decade, but none of the attempts were successful in passing legislation in effect in 15 states.

With three colleagues -- Yee and Sens. Ronald Calderon, D-Montebello, and Roderick Wright, D-Inglewood -- possibly facing prison time (Wright has already been convicted of voter fraud), Padilla said he hoped this year the timing would be right. Instead, his bill is on life support.

"Every legislator I've talked to swears up and down that their political activities are separate from how we make policy and how we cast our votes," Padilla said. "We can all say that until we're blue in the face. But if public perception is otherwise, that's not good for democracy."

Senate Bill 1101 survived a vote in the Senate only after Padilla agreed to an amendment sought by Senate Republicans that also imposes fundraising restrictions on non-incumbent candidates for the Legislature. Otherwise, those challengers would have an unfair fundraising advantage, the lawmakers argued.

Now Padilla is hearing new complaints from Democrats who sit on the Assembly Elections and Redistricting Committee. A majority of the panel's members declined to cast votes on the bill when they reviewed the proposal last month, leaving it without enough support to advance.

"It's been a grind," said Padilla, a candidate for secretary of state in November's election.

Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, said the proposed legislation "simply had too many inconsistencies and unresolved issues" to win his support in committee. He noted that the ban wouldn't apply to non-legislator candidates seeking local or statewide office. That's unfair to sitting lawmakers running for those offices, he said.

Asked why the bill couldn't be amended to address that concern, Padilla said court decisions in other states indicate that it would invite legal challenges.

Last month, the Senate adopted a new rule that imposes a fundraising ban on its members for the last four weeks of the legislative session, but there are no legal penalties for officials who break the rules. Senators who accept checks during the blackout period can only be reprimanded by their colleagues.

So far, the Assembly has declined to adopt a similar rule.

Padilla isn't the only lawmaker to have an ethics reform bill picked apart this year.

Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, saw key elements of a wide-ranging proposal to strengthen California's landmark Political Reform Act deleted by the Senate Appropriations Committee, led by Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, who will replace the termed-out Steinberg as the Senate's leader.

The committee is supposed to amend legislation that would be too costly to implement. In Hill's case, however, the committee eliminated pieces of his proposal that would have barred lawmakers from taking expensive free trips and prevented indicted lawmakers from using their campaign accounts as legal defense funds.

Hill, who sits on the committee, said he doesn't know why those changes were made. Had he objected, he added, he would have been forced to kill his own bill.

"What works for the committee may not work for you, but if you want the bill to move forward, that's how it goes," Hill said.

Provisions of the bill that remain intact will prohibit elected officials from contributing campaign funds to nonprofits run by their family members, block lawmakers from using campaign funds to pay their bills and require groups that pay for legislators' travel to disclose their donors and the cost of the trip.

De Leon declined to say why Hill's bill was amended by the committee. But Dan Reeves, de Leon's chief of staff, defended the changes.

"It's both commonplace and expected that the Appropriations Committee will, in the course of its duties, make improvements to bills to make them more workable," Reeves said.

Steinberg was unavailable for comment last week.

Senate Republican leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, also authored a sweeping ethics reform bill that would, among other things, prohibit lawmakers from using campaign accounts for criminal defense or to pay the salaries of their relatives, but it failed to clear a committee last month when two senators -- Hannah-Beth Jackson, Democrat-Santa Barbara, and Loni Hancock, Democrat-Berkeley -- withheld their votes.

De Leon and Steinberg deserve credit for pushing through new Senate rules that impose fundraising restrictions, offer whistle-blower protection to Senate staff and require the chamber to hire an ombudsman, but overall lawmakers' efforts to reform Sacramento politics have been lukewarm, said Dan Schnur, director of the Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California.

"It's pretty clear that most legislators are only interested in political reform in months when one of their colleagues is being arrested," said Schnur, who lost a bid to become secretary of state in June's primary election. "As soon as the headlines faded, so did the interest in the Capitol for any meaningful effort to clean up the system."

USA: California Senate Suspends Democrats Rod Wright, Ron Calderon And Leland Yee With PAY.

Reuters News
Reporting by Laila Kearney; Writing by Cynthia Johnston
Friday March 28, 2014

The California state Senate suspended three Democratic lawmakers on Friday who have been the subject of criminal probes, including Leland Yee, who was arrested this week in an FBI sweep on corruption and gun trafficking charges.

The Senate voted 28-1 to suspend the three, all of whom have been charged with or convicted of criminal wrongdoing in separate cases, in a move that further erodes what had once been a Democratic two-thirds super-majority in the Senate.

"An affirmative suspension puts this house on formal record that we unequivocally distance ourselves and the senate from the unfathomable allegations contained in the Yee indictment as well as the other case," California Senate Democratic leader Darrell Steinberg said during the meeting.

The suspensions with pay, the first in state history from the senate, deal a major blow to Democrats in an election year as they seek to use large majorities in both houses of the state legislature and all statewide offices to push through key projects. A spokesman for Steinberg said the suspensions would take effect immediately.

Yee, a former San Francisco supervisor and one-time mayoral candidate, was criminally charged in federal court in San Francisco on Wednesday with two felony counts of conspiring to import and traffic in firearms, and six corruption counts.

A day later, he withdrew from a race for California Secretary of State where he had been considered a strong candidate to become California's chief elections officer. Yee has been released on $500,000 bond.

In the probe that led to Yee's arrest, federal authorities also arrested Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow, alleged to be the head of a Chinese organized crime syndicate, and two dozen other people, prosecutors said.

A criminal complaint from the U.S. Attorney's office for the Northern District of California says that Yee, in exchange for campaign contributions, did favors for an undercover FBI agent.

Yee offered to facilitate a meeting between an undercover agent and an arms dealer, and discussed the types of weapons the undercover agent might need, the complaint said. Yee has declined to comment on the case.


The senate also suspended fellow senators Ron Calderon, who was indicted last month on corruption charges, and Rod Wright, who has been found guilty of voter fraud. Both had already been on paid leaves of absence.

Calderon (Democrat-Montebello) is charged in a federal grand jury indictment with taking some $100,000 in cash bribes, along with plane trips, golf outings and jobs for his children, in exchange for influencing legislation.

Prosecutors say he accepted bribes from hospital owner Michael Drobot to preserve a legislative loophole that allowed Drobot, who is cooperating with prosecutors, to defraud the state healthcare system out of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Calderon is also accused of taking money from undercover FBI agents posing as executives from an independent Hollywood movie studio in exchange for supporting an expansion of film tax credits in California.

Wright, who represents parts of Los Angeles and the suburb of Inglewood, was convicted in January of voter fraud and perjury after prosecutors said he did not reside in the district he represented.

He had previously been granted a paid leave of absence on the grounds that while he had been found guilty by a jury, the judge in the case had not yet formally endorsed the verdict.

Friday's suspension measure was opposed by Republican Senator Joel Anderson, who favored expelling the senators rather than suspending them with pay.

"What we're doing is incentivizing bad behavior with this resolution," Anderson said.

The New York Daily News
written by Don Thompson
March 28, 2014

SACRAMENTO — The California Senate voted Friday to suspend three lawmakers caught up in separate criminal cases after the latest one to be hauled into court refused to step down, the most serious house-cleaning action the chamber has taken in more than a century.

Friday’s 28-1 vote in the 40-member chamber came amid one of the most severe ethical crises in modern times for the Legislature in the nation’s most populous state. Later in the day, Gov. Jerry Brown also called on the three lawmakers to resign.

The Senate leadership said that before Friday, the chamber had never suspended a lawmaker in the institution’s 164-year history, but it has taken the more serious step of expelling lawmakers, the last time in 1905. The Assembly speaker’s office said that chamber has never suspended or expelled a lawmaker.

The resolution prevents Democratic Sens. Ron Calderon and Leland Yee, who face federal corruption charges, and Democratic Sen. Rod Wright, who is awaiting sentencing in a voter fraud case, from exercising any power of their office until the criminal cases against them have been resolved. Even so, they will continue receiving their $95,291 annual salaries.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg of Sacramento acknowledged the public criticism of the chamber but defended his leadership and the integrity of the 37 senators who have not run afoul of the law. Nevertheless, he said he has been shocked by having 7 percent of the chamber face felony charges this year, which will be his last as leader.

“One is an anomaly, two is a coincidence. Three? That’s not what this Senate is about,” Steinberg said to lawmakers before the vote.

Yee, who had championed gun control legislation and bills targeting violent video games sold to minors, is the latest of the three senators to be charged. The San Francisco Democrat was charged in a federal criminal complaint this week with accepting bribes and coordinating an international gun-running operation.

Yee’s attorney, Paul F. DeMeester, issued a statement immediately after the Senate vote saying suspension was “the right step for now” because it acknowledges the presumption of innocence. Representatives for Calderon and Wright said they would have no immediate comment on the suspension vote.

Later Friday, in a statement issued by the Democratic governor’s office, Brown weighed in for the first time since Yee’s arrest.

“Given the extraordinary circumstances of these cases — and today’s unprecedented suspensions — the best way to restore public confidence is for these Senators to resign,” Brown said.

Steinberg noted that the Senate already has “intensive” ethics training for its lawmakers and staff.

“But there are some things, members, that you just can’t teach,” he said. “I know of no ethics class that teaches about the illegality or the danger of gun-running or other such sordid activities.”

Steinberg also announced an unprecedented step of cancelling a Senate floor session in April for a mandatory ethics review, saying it is time for the Senate to “take a deeper look at our culture.”

Senate officials will go office-by-office to emphasize ethical conduct and to ask staffers to come forward if they are aware of any unethical or potentially criminal activity by lawmakers or Senate staffers.

The lone lawmaker to vote against the resolution, SR38, was Republican Sen. Joel Anderson of Alpine. One senator was present but did not vote, and nine were absent, including all three senators who were suspended. One seat is vacant.

Anderson argued that all three should be expelled outright and said it was wrong that they should continue receiving their salaries when facing such serious charges.

“If you reward bad behavior, you will get more of it,” Anderson said.

Only Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, was present and not voting. She and her staff did not respond to requests for comment.

Calderon and Wright previously took leaves of absence, which also let them keep their pay. The California Constitution says lawmakers can lose their pay only if they are expelled or resign.

The suspensions drop Senate Democrats below the two-thirds majority they won in the last election, a supermajority that allowed them to act in all matters without needing support from Republicans.

The vote comes just days after federal authorities arrested Yee as part of a broader corruption probe centered on San Francisco’s Chinatown district.

Steinberg was under intense pressure to take tough action against the three members of his own party.

Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, said he supports a proposed constitutional amendment, introduced by Steinberg on Friday, which would allow the Legislature to withhold members’ pay if they are suspended.

Leland Yee was arrested and released on bond Wednesday following a series of raids in Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area. He is accused of accepting more than $42,000 to provide introductions, influence legislation and for introducing an undercover FBI agent to an arms trafficker, according to an FBI affidavit that says Yee was also known as “Uncle Leland.”

Investigators said Yee discussed helping the agent get weapons, including shoulder-fired missiles, from a Muslim separatist group in the Philippines to help pay off campaign debts.

Wright was convicted of voter fraud and perjury and faces sentencing in May. Calderon faces federal charges for allegedly accepting $100,000 in bribes for friends and family in exchange for pushing certain bills.

Democratic Sen. Kevin de Leon of Los Angeles, who is expected to succeed Steinberg as Senate leader later this year, defended the chamber’s reputation and noted that none of the bills Calderon pushed as a favor to those who were giving him cash passed the Senate.

He said that shows that the legislative system actually worked.

“This is the best legislative institution in the country, hands down,” he said. “And we’re going to get past it.”

The only similar situation faced by the Legislature in recent memory is the so-called “Shrimpscam” investigation in 1985, in which federal agents went undercover and posed as representatives of a phony shrimp-processing company. Five lawmakers resigned and went to prison for taking bribes in the FBI sting operation.

The Senate last expelled lawmakers in 1905, when four senators were ousted for malfeasance involving bribery. Only one other senator has been expelled. In 1850 during the first legislative session after California gained statehood, a senator violated Senate rules by failing to show up for sessions for more than 10 days, according to Steinberg’s office.

The 80-member Assembly has never expelled a member and considered doing so only once, officials said. That was in 1899, when an expulsion vote failed Howard E. Wright, who represented Alameda County. Wright had been indicted on bribery charges but was not convicted.

USA: California State Senator Roderick D. Wright, A Fixture In Area Democratic Politics, Found Guilty On 8 Felony Counts Of Perjury And Voter Fraud.

The Los Angeles Times
written by Jean Merl
January 29, 2014

A Los Angeles jury Tuesday found state Sen. Roderick D. Wright, a fixture in area Democratic politics, guilty on eight felony counts of perjury and voter fraud.

Prosecutors said Wright, the first member of the Legislature to be convicted of a felony since the Shrimpscam sting of the 1990s, could face more than eight years behind bars and be banned for life from holding other elective office. It is unclear whether he must forfeit his Senate seat.

The lawmaker, who sat with his head bowed as a criminal courts clerk read the verdicts, had no comment. But his attorney said they would appeal. Judge Kathleen Kennedy set sentencing for March 12.

Wright, who was indicted by a county grand jury in September 2010, remains free on $45,000 bail.

Under the state Constitution, a lawmaker can be expelled from the Legislature on a two-thirds vote of his or her house. In some cases, legislators have resigned voluntarily.

The last one to quit under such a cloud was then-state Sen. Frank Hill (R-Whittier), who departed in 1994 after being found guilty of extortion, money laundering and conspiracy in a corruption sting known as Shrimpscam, according to Senate Secretary Greg Schmidt.

In 2006, U.S. Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Rancho Santa Fe), resigned his office after pleading guilty to taking bribes and evading taxes. He was given an eight-year, four-month prison term.

California law requires that candidates for the state Legislature live in the district they seek to represent when they take out papers to run.

Wright's racially diverse jury of nine women and three men deliberated less than two full days before finding that he had lied about his address on voter registration and candidacy documents in 2007 and 2008, as he prepared to seek the Senate seat he holds.

He also voted fraudulently in five elections in 2008 and 2009, the jurors found.

Wright, 61, said he thought he was following the law when he arranged to rent a room in a home he owns that is occupied by his common-law stepmother to establish a legal residence in Inglewood. The city is in the district he wanted to represent.

Deputy Dist. Attys. Bjorn Dodd and Michele Gilmer, of the Public Integrity Division, said his true residence was a house in the upscale Baldwin Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles, outside the district.

They presented evidence showing full closets, three luxury cars, prescription medicines, collectibles and artwork at the Baldwin Hills house but few of Wright's personal effects at the Inglewood complex he bought in 1977.

State Senate leader and fellow Democrat Darrell Steinberg of Sacramento called the guilty verdicts "a punch to the gut."

"We hold Sen. Wright in high regard," Steinberg told reporters. He said he would consult with other senators and legal counsel before deciding what to do.

The verdict comes as another state senator, Ron Calderon (D-Montebello), is under federal investigation for alleged corruption. As news of Wright's conviction reached Sacramento on Tuesday, grim-faced lawmakers huddled around computers to learn the details. The Democratic caucus then met in closed session.

"Any time a colleague gets in these kinds of situations, it's always a painful experience," said Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco). "My thoughts are with him and his family."

The district attorney obtained search warrants for the Baldwin Hills and Inglewood properties in 2009. The prosecutors' evidence included photos taken at both addresses on the day of the search.

Wright said in his testimony that he moved some things to the Inglewood property and eventually changed his driver's license, passport and other documents to reflect that address.

During the trial, which began Jan. 8, Wright testified he had no intention to deceive or defraud. He cited a 1981 Tuolumne County case in which a court found that a woman appointed to an uncontested post to a local board could be seated, even though she and her husband had moved outside the district.

The couple had not changed their voter registrations, driver's licenses or other key documents to reflect a new address.

Prosecutors said Wright did not register at the Inglewood property until he prepared to run for the Senate in 2007. Wright testified that he had lived periodically at the Inglewood complex.

At the heart of the case was whether the Inglewood property was Wright's "domicile" -- a home, where one intends to stay and to return after an absence.

Wright testified he thought he had made the Inglewood property, in what was then the 25th Senate District (since redrawn), his domicile. Dodd called it "a Hollywood prop" meant to "create the appearance that he was living in the district."

Winston Kevin McKesson, Wright's attorney, faulted the law as murky and the D.A.'s investigation as sloppy. He called those who searched the homes liars. He portrayed Wright as a "dedicated public servant" who had spent his adult life in politics.

McKesson heatedly referred to the investigation and subsequent trial as a waste of taxpayer money and noted Wright's commendations from constituents and interest groups.

Wright got his start in politics on Sen. George McGovern's 1972 presidential campaign while a student at Pepperdine University. After graduation, he continued to work on Democratic campaigns between stints as an aide to two then-Los Angeles City Council members, Robert Farrell and David Cunningham, and to Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles).

He was elected to the state Assembly in 1996, serving until term limits forced him out in 2002. Wright twice ran unsuccessfully for the L.A. City Council, in 1991 and 2003.

After winning the 2008 state Senate race in the strongly Democratic district, Wright was reelected in 2012 in a redrawn district, the 35th, with nearly 77% of the vote.

USA: What If Ray Nagin Had Never Been Elected Mayor Of New Orleans? Excellent Piece. He Sounds Like President Obama.

written by Kevin McGill, AP
Monday July 14, 2014

In a recent letter to U.S. District Judge Helen Berrigan, Jarin Nagin writes: "I can remember my dad asking my brother and I, 'what would y'all think about me running for mayor?'"

Now facing the 10-year prison sentence Berrigan handed him Wednesday, Ray Nagin may be wishing his offspring had protested.

He's probably not the only one second-guessing the political decisions made in New Orleans in 2002.

That year, Nagin and 14 other people were on the ballot to succeed term-limited Mayor Marc Morial. They ranged from political nobodies notable mostly for whimsical nicknames (Manny "Chevrolet" Bruno, Albert "Superman" Jones) to two city council members, a state senator and the chief of police.

Might any of them have better-handled the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005? Would they have been as susceptible to graft?

The years that followed Nagin's election gave voters the answers about Nagin. His image of cool competency began to break down. New Orleans, awash in the Katrina catastrophe, was saddled with a mayor in over his head and -- as we now know -- corrupt.

Richard Pennington, the Morial-era police chief who faced Nagin in the 2002 runoff, had accused him of financial misdeeds. The accusations were neither clear nor substantiated, though now they seem prescient.

Pennington ran a lackluster campaign but was credited in his time as police chief with instituting reforms and driving down crime. Would his reforms have stuck had he become mayor? Would the police force under a Pennington administration have more professionally handled the chaos after Katrina -- officer-involved shootings of civilians, the burning of a body, police looting -- that overshadowed the heroism so many police officers and other first responders displayed after the storm.

Nagin was a political novice, but he campaigned as a good-government candidate with strong backing from a business community weary of the city's corrupt political climate. As a businessman and head of the local cable TV franchise, Nagin promised to make city operations more business-like and customer-friendly.

Could experienced politicians like then-legislator Paulette Irons or City Council members Troy Carter or Jim Singleton have been any more adept at dealing with evacuations before Katrina and the massive bureaucracy of the recovery?

Would any of the other 14 have ended up standing before a federal judge after a conviction on charges of abusing the mayor's office for personal gain?

Nagin plans to appeal his conviction, but prosecutors may appeal, too. They objected to Berrigan's 10-year sentence. Nagin's crimes were too serious, they said, his lies too persistent. They left open the possibility the Justice Department may seek more jail time forNagin.

It's difficult to argue with their assessment of Nagin's crimes. He was convicted on 20 counts, including conspiracy, bribery and fraud. Prosecutors said he took cash, vacations and other bribes from businessmen in return for steering city contracts their way.

Berrigan herself didn't downplay the impact, using the word "betrayal" at one point and noting that the corruption happened when New Orleans most needed a strong and honest leader -- and not another assault on its image.

"Corruption breeds public cynicism, nowhere more than New Orleans, where the perception of the city as a hub of corruption persists," Berrigan said.

Under federal guidelines Berrigan could have sentenced Nagin to 20 years.

The judge determined Nagin wasn't a ringleader in the series of corrupt acts, feeding an image of the former mayor as being as feckless a criminal as he was a mayor. She also noted Nagin's relationship with his children and his wife of more than 30 years.

Those family members pleaded with Berrigan for leniency in letters now part of the public court record. They insist he is not guilty, a victim of misleading prosecutors. The emotional pleas of his teenage daughter are at times difficult to read.

Nagin hasn't helped his own cause. He has never apologized. After his sentencing, he maintained his innocence in an interview with WDSU-TV. This, despite a well-documented case by prosecutors that led to conviction on 20 of 21 counts.

Nagin seems genuinely befuddled by it all.

Some in New Orleans are second-guessing Berrigan's decision to go relatively easy on him. His 10-year sentence may be viewed by some as lenient, but it is also a merciful ending for a city burdened by more than its share of grief over the past decade.

USA: Ray Nagin Indictment Detailed: First New Orleans Mayor Sentenced To 10 Years In Federal Prison On Massive Corruption Charges

written by Gordon Russell
January 13, 2014

A federal grand jury on Friday indicted former Mayor Ray Nagin with 21 counts of corruption, alleging that while in office, Nagin took cash bribes and gifts from three city contractors and used his power as mayor to leverage a granite installation contract from Home Depot as the retailer was building a store in Central City. Despite New Orleans' reputation for political shenanigans, Nagin is the first mayor in the city's history to be indicted by a grand jury on corruption charges.

Ironically, Nagin, 56, a Democrat, was elected in 2002 largely on the strength of his promise to reform a City Hall that was widely perceived as a den of cronyism under Nagin's predecessor, Marc Morial. His administration began with denunciations of municipal corruption and a crackdown on the beleaguered city's Taxicab Bureau, including arrests of numerous cabbies -- one of them the mayor's cousin -- and the head of that department.

But the taxi cases fizzled for lack of evidence. And Nagin's reform image lost considerable luster during his second term, when, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, several patronage scandals surfaced, one of which led to the guilty plea of Greg Meffert, the city's first-ever chief technology officer and one of Nagin's most trusted aides.

Meffert will likely be called as a witness for the prosecution should Nagin's case go to trial.

The indictment against Nagin includes six counts of bribery, one count of conspiracy, one count of money laundering, nine counts of wire fraud and four counts of filing false tax returns.

Nagin is due in federal court Jan. 31 to be arraigned by U.S. Magistrate Judge Daniel Knowles. It will be up to Knowles to set his bond; white-collar defendants are almost always allowed to remain free on bond before trial.

If he's convicted of all charges, Nagin will likely face a prison sentence of at least 15 years, according to Loyola Law School professor Dane Ciolino, and perhaps between 20 and 25 years.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who lost a runoff to Nagin in 2006, called it "a sad day for the city of New Orleans.''

Nagin's long-expected indictment came more than two and a half years after he left City Hall -- his once sky-high popularity largely dissipated -- and relocated to the Dallas area. A five-year statute of limitations on some of his alleged misdeeds was looming.

But the investigation had been going on since well before he left office: According to the indictment, he was interviewed by FBI agents in March 2009, when 14 months were left in his term. At that interview, Nagin "concealed his receipt of bribery/kickback payoffs" from city contractors but acknowledged that city officials were barred from accepting payments or gifts from vendors.

According to the indictment, the bribery conspiracy began in June 2004, when Nagin signed an executive order exempting technology contracts from city bidding rules. Five years later, Nagin issued a second executive order that suspended review panels designed to make the awarding of contracts more fair and transparent.

In brief, the former mayor is charged with:
  • Accepting $50,000 and "numerous truckloads" of free granite from Frank Fradella, the former chief executive of Home Solutions of America, a now-defunct firm that specialized in disaster recovery. The cash bribe was routed through Michael McGrath, a Home Solutions board member, to disguise it, the indictment says. McGrath is now serving a 14-year prison term for bank fraud. Home Solutions received numerous contracts from the city and other local government entities after Hurricane Katrina; Fradella had been angling for a much bigger redevelopment deal, but he never got it. The indictment charges that Nagin "met with investors" from HSOA's board and "pledged his support for Fradella's business interests" with the city. In addition to the $50,000 bribe, Fradella also made nine monthly payments of $12,500 to Nagin, totaling $112,500, after Nagin left office, the indictment says. The document lists each of those payments as a count of wire fraud.
  • Accepting $72,500 in bribes, paid by cash and check, from Rodney Williams, the founder of Three Fold Consultants, a local engineering firm. To give the bribes a veneer of legitimacy, Williams formed a sham company, BRT Investments, that was granted a 4.5-percent stake in the Nagin family's granite firm, the document says. Three Fold -- which has severed its affiliation with Williams -- received numerous no-bid design and engineering contracts from the city during Nagin's last few years in office.
  • Using his political stroke to help kill a "community benefits agreement" that would have required Home Depot to hire a certain number of residents from the surrounding neighborhood, and pay them above-market rates, at the retailer's new Central City store. The indictment charges that in return for mayor's help, the Nagin family's granite firm -- Stone Age LLC -- received a "coveted" contract to be the exclusive granite installer for four Home Depot stores in the New Orleans area. The indictment does not name Home Depot, referring to the company as "major retail corporation."
  • Allowing technology vendor Mark St. Pierre, who had a substantial no-bid contract with the city, to pay for the Nagin family's lodging and other expenses on a trip to Hawaii in December 2004 and January 2005, and then to cover first-class airfare for a family trip to Jamaica in October 2005. After the Hawaii trip, St. Pierre began paying for cell phones for members of the Nagin family, the indictment says. In 2006, St. Pierre hosted a campaign fund-raiser in Chicago at which Nagin received "concealed and direct" contributions.
  • Helping the owner of a movie theater in eastern New Orleans, listed in the document as "Businessman A," get out of delinquent tax and loan payments to the city. The amount of the debt is not specified. In return, the businessman spent $23,500 to send the Nagin family to New York City by private jet and limousine, the indictment says. The money was routed through a third party to hide the source, prosecutors allege.
  • Releasing misleading or false public records on at least three occasions. The indictment says Nagin in February 2009 released a version of his public calendar that hid "his relationship with co-conspirators," including Fradella. In addition, it says he filed at least two sworn affidavits with the state Board of Ethics that did not dlsclose anyone outside the Nagin family had a stake in Stone Age, and also did not disclose Stone Age's dealings with Williams, Fradella and McGrath.
  • Failing to report the income he received from bribes in the calendar years 2005-2008.
Williams and Fradella have both already pleaded guilty to bribing Nagin; the two are expected to testify against the former mayor. St. Pierre, meanwhile, was convicted on 53 bribery counts at trial in 2011 and sentenced to more than 17 years in prison. He has been trying to negotiate a reduction in his prison term in exchange for testifying against Nagin.

While most of the facts charged in the indictment are familiar to those following the Nagin case, the scheme involving "Businessman A" had not surfaced publicly until the charges were filed Friday.

It's not clear who the businessman is. But the theater appears to be the troubled Grand theater, which opened in 2002. Its owners included Liberty Bank president Alden McDonald, movie theater owner George Solomon, and First NBC Bank president Ashton Ryan, as well as businessmen Ronnie Burns and Gowri Kailas, according to state records. Documents show that developer Joseph Canizaro was also an original member of the company, although he appears to have pulled out at some point.

McDonald, Solomon and Burns did not return calls for comment. Canizaro said through a spokeswoman that he had no comment on the indictment. Ryan's assistant referred calls to attorney and businessman Cesar Burgos, who did not return a call for comment. Kailas could not be reached.

Flooded after Katrina, the Grand rarely operated in the black even before the storm, Solomon said in late 2005. At that point, Solomon said the theater owed the city more than $5 million. The city itself had borrowed money to make the loan to the company through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, according to a 2009 Bureau of Governmental Research report.

In 2009, the Nagin administration pushed a "tax increment financing" subsidy to redevelop the entire site. BGR criticized the proposal, characterizing it as benefiting the indebted businessmen without sufficient guarantees the mall would actually be redeveloped or the city's investment would be repaid. Although the financing arrangement was approved by the City Council, the renewal project never got off the ground.

Ciolino predicted a stiff sentence if Nagin is to be convicted of all charges, noting the 17-plus years meted out to St. Pierre -- a vendor rather than a public official.

"If he pushes this to trial and gets convicted, it's gonna be ugly for him," Ciolino said. "He's probably not someone they're looking at to cooperate. He is the last fish swimming. And as the last fish swimming, he doesn't really have much to offer."

Nagin did not immediately respond to an email message. His lawyer, Robert Jenkins, did not immediately return a call seeking comment. WDSU-TV reported that Jenkins was "surprised" by Friday's indictment, and that Jenkins had been told plea deal talks would continue.

The indictment does not charge Nagin's two adult sons, Jeremy and Jarin, with any crimes. The two partnered with their father in Stone Age, and sources have said they picked up $10,000 of the bribe money Williams allegedly paid. Prosecutors had reportedly threatened to indict the pair as a result -- and promised not to do so if Nagin agreed to a plea deal.

The fact that the Nagin sons are not charged in the indictment does not necessarily mean they are in the clear; they allegedly collected the money from Williams on July 21, 2009, meaning the five-year statute of limitations doesn't expire for 17 months. It's not uncommon for prosecutors to add new charges or defendants after an initial indictment, as a means of pressuring a defendant to cut a deal.

When Nagin took office in 2002, federal authorities were beginning a sprawling probe into contracts let by his predecessor, Morial. Nagin portrayed himself in direct contrast to Morial, and several of his top aides -- notably Meffert -- were deeply critical of certain deals they inherited, especially the Johnson Controls energy-efficiency contract, which led to convictions of several close Morial associates.

"It's just very sad, we had the greatest opportunity missed," Beth James, Nagin's top economic development aide from 2002 to 2004, said Friday. "When Ray was first elected there was so much momentum, and it felt like the community was really behind him to help right the ship, to get New Orleans seen in a positive light."

Lawrence Powell, an author and history professor at Tulane, said he figures most big-city mayors get too cozy with the contractors they deal with. But Nagin's dealings seem particularly "amateurish," he said.

Michael Mizell-Nelson, an associate professor of history at UNO, said Nagin wasn't the first mayor to portray himself as a dragonslayer, only to later disappoint. Delesseps "Chep" Morrison, who overthrew the dominant political machine in the city, only to establish his own, was similar, he noted.

"Nagin emerged under the image of a reformer, but it is difficult to imagine that a 'business' candidate whose job had been managing a monopoly tied deeply into city politics could serve as a positive change agent," Mizell-Nelson said. "Juxtaposed against the Marc Morial administration, that image seemed more believable. He was going to be cleaning up New Orleans and end corruption in City Hall."

USA: Ray Nagin, Former 2-Term Democratic Mayor Of New Orleans, Sentenced To 10 Years In Federal Prison On 20 Criminal Counts, Massive Corruption During Hurricane Katrina.

Wow. Ray Nagin sounds exactly like President Barack Obama.

Gettysburg Times
In New Orleans, a 10-year sentence for Ray Nagin
written by Janet McConnaughey, AP
Thursday July 10, 2014

He entered New Orleans City Hall as a cool and confidant self-styled reformer, won fame there as a passionate, if profane, critic of the federal response to Hurricane Katrina and exited under suspicion.

Next stop for former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin: federal prison.

“Excuse my French — everybody in America — but I am pissed,” he shouted during a radio appearance three days after Hurricane Katrina’s levee breaches left the city awash in foul water and rotting corpses in 2005. The tirade may have endeared him to some, for a time, but Nagin turned out to be a feckless mayor and, as a federal judge saw it, something of a lightweight as a 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 2002-2010. If the Federal Bureau of Prisons goes along with the recommendation of U.S. District Judge Helen Berrigan, he will do the time at a federal lockup in Oakdale, Louisiana — where former Gov. Edwin Edwards spent some of his own 10-year sentence, and where a current resident is Nagin’s fellow New Orleans Democrat, disgraced former U.S. Rep. William Jefferson.

To longtime civil rights attorney Mary Howell, who watched him with cautious optimism during his 2002 campaign, Nagin seemed to promise at least something new.

“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.”

Prosecutors had been pushing for a sentence in the neighborhood of 20 years for Nagin, convicted in February of 20 criminal counts. The crimes, his repeated lies about them, the damage heaped on a city reeling from the catastrophe of Hurricane Katrina and a longtime reputation for corruption — all merited more prison time, prosecutors said at his Friday sentencing hearing.

Berrigan acknowledged the seriousness, including the betrayal of a city at a time when it most needed a strong and honest leader.

But she also cast Nagin as something less than a kingpin. She noted that some of the businessmen involved in bribing him won millions of dollars in city business. Nagin is believed to have cleared only about a half million — in money, free trips, granite for a foundering family business — over his eight years.

“Mr. Nagin was not the organizer or leader of the group,” Berrigan said. At times, she said, the crimes appeared to be motivated by a desire to impress and provide for his loved ones, something “less than ordinary greed.”

And she said there were times when Nagin demonstrated “a genuine if all too infrequent” desire to help a city knocked on its heels after Katrina’s levee breaches and catastrophic flooding.

At no time was his passion more clear than during that rambling, angry tirade on WWL radio the night of Sept. 1, 2005, when he lashed out at the federal government for a slow response to the desperate city.

It was a different Ray Nagin than the one who emerged as an unexpected contender to succeed term-limited Marc Morial in 2002: the affable, handsome cable TV executive with the shaved head and easy smile who promised to crack down on corruption.

“There was a, I wouldn’t say, hipness,” said Howell. “But he had a sense of humor, and he had a kind of gift in certain ways.”

Soon after he took office, Nagin announced a crackdown on corruption in the city’s automobile inspection and taxi regulation agencies. But there was little to distinguish his first term until Katrina hit. He won re-election months after the storm — this time on the strength of his appeal to black voters fearful of being muscled out of the city’s slow recovery. But his decline had begun and there was no end to it.

“He would make announcements about some project, but never really follow through,” Chervenak remembered. “And then he was re-elected after Katrina, and then basically became disengaged and abandoned his responsibilities.”

And then there was the corruption. Prosecutors say he had taken his first bribe even before Katrina and the pace picked up during his second term when millions in city-controlled recovery work was available.

Prosecutors objected to the sentence but said a decision on whether to appeal will be made later by the Solicitor General in Washington.

From the bench, Berrigan noted that, at 58, Nagin is unlikely to return to public life — or a life of crime. She recommended that he serve his sentence at Oakdale and assigned a Sept. 8 reporting date.

On the streets of New Orleans on Wednesday, some said Nagin’s corruption merited harsher punishment.

“He was stealing,” said Keith Harris of suburban Gretna, repairing a sidewalk near the courthouse. “After Katrina when people were looting, he sent them to jail. He was looting. He should have been in there too. … He got some of my money. He got some of your money too.”

Jay Nickle, at the front desk in an office tower near the courthouse, saw it differently. “We all make mistakes,” she said. “He’s going to learn from his.”