Former mayor Ray Nagin, the businessman-turned-politician who became the worldwide face of the city after Hurricane Katrina, was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Prosecutors immediately objected to the sentence, which falls well below typical guidelines that called for 15-20 years.
"What Ray Nagin did was sell his office over and over and over again," Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Coman said outside the courthouse. "The damage that Ray Nagin inflicted upon this community ... is incalculable. We as a community need not and should not accept public corruption."
Coman said a decision on whether to appeal will be made by U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli.
Judge Ginger Berrigan determined that Nagin did not have a leadership role in the criminal conspiracy, saying all defendants are "equally culpable."
"Mr. Nagin's crimes were motivated in part by a deeply misguided desire to provide for those closest to him," she said.
Before announcing the sentence, Berrigan indicated she would "downwardly depart from guidelines" and that "sentencing imposed should reflect Nagin's ability to harm the public again."
Nagin said he would "trust in God that this would all work out."
A jury convicted Nagin of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes — money, free vacation trips and truckloads of free granite for his family business — from businessmen who wanted work from the city or Nagin's support for various hurricane recovery projects.
Prosecutors asked the court to send Nagin to prison for a long time. They argued that he was found guilty of 20 of 21 counts in the indictment, and that he participated in and orchestrated a years-long conspiracy to enrich himself and his family.
The government also argued that Nagin spent years covering up his crimes and that his testimony during the two-week trial showed an unwillingness to accept responsibility for his actions.
Coman compared Nagin's crimes with those of other public officials who drew stiff sentences, including former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick (28 years), former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich (14 years) and former Birmingham, Ala., mayor Larry Langford (15 years).
"Nagin's widespread and corrosive breach of the public trust — lasting through much of his tenure in office — equals even the worst of these state and local corruption cases," Coman wrote.
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