WWL>Topics>>2-10-14 2:10pm Angela: on the Nagin trial

2-10-14 2:10pm Angela: on the Nagin trial

Feb 10, 2014|

Angela talks with Tania Tetlow of Tulane Law School about the Ray Nagin trial.

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Automatically Generated Transcript (may not be 100% accurate)

-- the rain Nagin trial has captured the attention of all who were here post-Katrina. As a community fought to come back. With businessmen already admitting their own guilt and paying what they call bribes to the former mayor. There are many who question why Ray Nagin didn't cut a deal. That case and the recent decision in the Jefferson Parish flooding case. And another decision to release at NO PD officer already in jail for his involvement in the Henry Glover case. Send us that we needed a little legal guidance into what's happening and how lucky we are that tiny -- professor at Tulane law. Is joining us for the next hour to help explain all of these cases and please if you have. Any comments any questions just give us a call at 260187. I am so appreciative you -- here because there's a lot to talk about we have these in monumental case is going on. And some kind of confusing to the simple brain. And but let's start with what's happening -- literally across the street right now with a -- trial right the jury now has its. Yes and we had earlier today they had closing arguments right but let's kind of go back. To what many people sent with all of these guys coming forward saying I gave a bribe I gave a bribe looking for Brian. The thought was why is he. Not just cutting a deal. When I was a prosecutor -- found that the hardest defendants to actually negotiate a plea with -- and white collar cases where. The idea of just of going to jail is not something that they can wrap their mind around and I think sometimes I I don't really know what was going on Ray Nagin had by. People persuade themselves that they didn't do anything wrong all evidence to the contrary even that's not true and they decide they're gonna roll the dice because they think they can. Beat the odds. And we'll find every shortly if that was a gamble worth taking. We also don't know what deal the government offered. It's fair sentencing guidelines and Ray -- are that they vary according to a few facts still an issue but look like more than twenty years. And so it's how much of a break the government offered him on the front and plead guilty and that we will never now. I was curious because just from again all have done is read the papers and watch television like everybody else. That the sons. Who were and it created the company. And more going into these business people for funds. That they were not indicted. There's a difference between being pretty sure somebody is part of a conspiracy and having evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that each individual defendant knew what was going on. And at the -- primarily. Communicated. In the scheme through their father than that evidence is going to be hard to come by because obviously the father's not gonna testify against the suns. And so sometimes family members it's not because -- member of the family it's that you don't have enough evidence to. Convict that individual defendant and and you often don't want to weaken your case by creating a distraction by having last evidence on one defendant and the other -- If it's a hard call but it probably had to do with. How much evidence that the government had directly against each signed. You bring -- what you were idea the US assistant US attorney for five years so when this would hit. It to the layperson it just seems to take a very long period of time. Not that were being. You know not thinking people aren't doing all their homework and very important that you -- fall in line. This did take a long time minutes 21 counts. Right it's it's a big case and you can imagine the kind of work the government had to do the FBI investigated this case so to get all of these documents out of the city to get them from each of the contractors. To. Figure out how much tax in the dates and to match everything against each other. That's a lot of work and it's not that the FBI has 300 agents that they throw on a particular case so it's of few people doing an awful lot of work and that can take years he also wanna make sure you get it right because the minute the government. Charges that case they should have done all of their work on the front end and they don't necessarily get more time after the indictment comes down to investigate they need to really have their tax zero. What what were your overall thoughts on if you follow this reading newspapers. It looks to me like a pretty overwhelming case of bribery and tax of Asian. -- the mayor didn't even. Offer much of the defense against attacks of -- their were. Hundreds of thousands of dollars of unreported income and he didn't really have an explanation about either of them that his accountant did it but of course your accountant only. Has information that you get to them. On the bribery case. They have lots of evidence that the mayor got benefits and that the people who offered those payments also got benefit in return and the defense seems to only be that that's a coincidence. That the mayor. Would never be persuaded by the money being handed over to hits company year to his son's that he acted objectively. But. That's an awful hard thing to swallow so we'll see with the jury thinks that there were the issues of the trips you know the Jamaica trip to Chicago trip to New York trip. And who was paying for -- now I don't know who's paying for it. He he basically. So there are two different kinds of trips so there is that Chicago trip from the contractor for Della. Paid for and once that hit the newspaper he had the city reimburse having claimed that going to the saints game in meeting with people with city business enough so he had. Try to have an explanation for it battled I was right in the middle for Della influencing him and trying to. Get favors out of hand. With this whole -- trip it was clearly not city business it was a vacation. And he claimed that. And that he -- great effort was paying for it in denote that the contractors in perish or paying for it. But even that I don't know how much that persuade the jury that your employee. Mac birdied that he's I'll see your friend is offering you a free first class. All expenses paid trip to Hawaii you mean I don't know about you Angela that I -- neighbors and friends that never -- that kind of offered he. And seems inappropriate even within a City Hall office by its particularly given my efforts efforts to persuade the mayor to allow no big contracts and -- office or the way of his friends. It would be problematic it seems even if he didn't know it came straight from TP Aaron and the effort testified that he did that. And then on the New York trip he said he just with hitching a ride on a jet had no idea that the guy. Whose tax that he was about to forgive. Mr. Solomon. With the movie theater. Was paying something like 20000 dollars that Jack so. At lots of different explanations but all of them involving. The kind of travel but I think the average stirred does not see is ordinary that you forget about. You bring up another point a discussion is the jury and the jury is. From what six parish area right and it's pretty broken up among all North Shore and some in Saint John and some -- Orleans -- Jefferson. And and what kind of impact is that. It's hard -- -- I mean in many ways it keeps it from being jurors from Orleans to note the mayor batter and you know love him or hate him and have strong feelings about and the way federal trials work is -- it's there're certain numbered districts per state in Louisiana their -- say you're taking a jury you take every federal trial jury from the pool of the eastern district of the state. So this is true for any federal trial and terms of how plays out I mean people have their own prejudices about neurons in Orleans politics about may work against him. They may also have. Few were issues with them then the voters have been morons that by the time not to offices ratings were absolutely abysmal yet few supporters anywhere so. So many lives intangible -- may be. Less aware that in -- worried about. How he did an office verses the actual evidence in this case. You know I was on a trial this was not a federal -- on -- a criminal trial actually and I was impressed with once we got in that room. How hard we really work to be as fair as we possibly current as the whole discussion part of it. It was just very impressive on I guess I'm projecting that I think that's what they're they're doing right now. That once -- given that responsibility. It's been I hope so and I think that. Jurors really try to rise to that challenge that the process of deliberation means that people really listen to each other put aside their own personal crises. It's it's hard to tell the nature of juries is that they are -- Mere mortal -- in all of their strengths and weaknesses so you hope for the past with that but I think. Most of the time. That jurors really step up to the played into a wonderful job so I hope the putts what's happening right now. While I want everyone to stay with -- and again if you have any questions or thoughts gesture on. On what you think about the name in trial give us a call at 260187. Day we will be back with Tonya -- slope right after this. -- very special guest today is Tonya tackler who is a professor at time of law at Tulane University. And now also is a former US prosecutor. Very interesting case we're talking about the making case which now is in the hands of the jury. I think a lot of people who follow this very closely one because I think both both newspapers and television had done a very good job of a sort of capturing it. And because of its very uninteresting. That Ray Nagin would choose to take the stand. Let me get your thoughts on that on first. Well it's an excruciating decision for any defendant whether to take the standard not they have a right not to the government has the burden of proof not the defense. That the judge instructs the jury that they should never hold against a defendant their decision not to testify. But of course you worry that they do hold it against the defendant not to testify and he. The defendant wants the opportunity to explain themselves. And if -- for every good added they can work out well the problem is you don't know how you will react under pressure they Nagin did. Very well on cross examination but he's up against a mountain of evidence and the ability to explain away every email every contractor for each pack. Is simply limited by the facts before him so he. Held up under pressure by -- he was still sort of blocked in by the actual evidence. And the loss of the worry of whether it's better for defense lawyer to sort of poke holes in the government's. Cason of vague ways and wild but what this could happen this could have happened. Vs the defendant actually testifying and offering a specific. Defense and then it's kind of like offering an alibi it's fine unless the government can reply yet. And says that's what was going on here isn't that happening several times yes yes. Where they caught him. In various things in it. May look bad. Right right and then it was interesting. To all the people to him lined up and you call those the cooperating witnesses some of them are yes some of them are just. Right packed witnesses but his argue about the mayor's former mayor's argument -- in -- attorney Robert Jenkins was. These people trying to save their own skin. So they're gonna they're gonna stretch as far as they can because they're really motivated. For themselves right. That's a fair. Criticism and any time the government uses cooperating witnesses they understand that their credibility is going to be chipped away because they have a self interest and pleasing the government. So their couple of arguments around the enemy one is that you corroborate your witness he frankly wouldn't trust them if you didn't have corroboration of the documents that. All the witnesses telling you the same facts. And didn't use at a trial to persuade the jury that they're telling the truth that they make though the witness make a little farther than what the documents show by you know that they were telling you the truth all along because the documents confirm everything else saying. The other thing is I think there's a difference between a witness like great effort in Frankfurt Gallo were really in trouble. For all already independently of their dealings with snake and effort had been bribed by saint Pierre and for Dallas in trouble for other things and so. They have an incentive to try to work down those charges but. Rodney. The first -- -- Williams the first cooperating witness testified he only pled guilty to bribing Ray Nagin and so the for the jury to believe -- -- they have to believe that this is a perfectly innocuous above -- transaction that somehow Rodney Williams was willing to go to jail saying it was a bribe when really it wasn't. And that's that's hard to believe right so when that when the defendant is cooperating as one who's. Whose only crime is to say that there interaction with Nagin was corrupts. And there's nothing else that are in trouble for it back that far more of the ring Richard. When you would read about the testimonies when you would read as we all did to sort of the mayor's reaction you know the rolling in the eyes looking in them. I've always thought just keep your head street predicts that do not he moved at all. It's hard you've got I have quite the poker face that it and it's a fine line even that because. -- I'm sure in some ways he can come across as very charming and and especially in -- first they use on the stand -- account seemed quite fearless just not intimidated not worried about it but that can also -- -- an arrogant that you jester about that now. Which is part of the team of the cases that he felt that way and that's willing to act in these ways. So it's it's tricky for defendant to -- at all and you don't wanna be too stone faced either in seem like you don't care so. It's it's the acting job of the century even if you're being sincere just to know how injuries can respond to you. And I think -- is probably do a lot about it sizing up whether they think the defendant. Is it good and sincere man born knots and their lots of ways that. We come to those conclusions that are below the surface and not even conscious the -- kind of body language is one of them. We we've all seen movies where you think that diminishes that. Where they have not professional people who do nothing but tell you what kind of jury you should have. France and those kinds of things now the government doesn't do that doesn't. Today not that I'm aware of we never did it and our office spouse there have a professional jury consultant I think the government has far more just lore about. What kind of jurors are with us or against us. By its. I sometimes defendants have the money for expensive jury consultants who come in and try decades. Boy it. You know you have all the superficial information about yours and trying to -- -- going to be with fury against you from -- fashion where they Lee is. Kind of whether they're married how many kids they have in federal court you really know very little about them so there's a fair amount of gas work. About the -- choose well and again keeps things by ever retire I would love to be perfect soldier it was a great experience -- right an -- the only one who feels that -- -- sell her the the waiting is not great but the anyway their their work and in reading the closing arguments we need to talk about that but a couple of times the judge was trying to hurry along. The prosecutor. Right you know get on with that get on with -- what does that. I've my understanding is that there is a set amount of time that the judge established before him for closing arguments. And I think that and the government that Mac common in his rebuttal argument seems to have gone over that time so that was a judge saying OK enough. You've got to wrap it up says she she was nice enough not to cut him off entirely mid sentence but wanted him to finishes spot and stop. It was it was said by reporters that of the mall he was he became emotional in is that a good thing. It's. It's a cult and now I mean I honestly think that. Jurors worry less about what that they like the lawyers are not then pay attention to the witnesses and what they say and sometimes we get caught up on the idea. For example a cross examination that we as lawyers it's about whether we did well whether we look smarter than the witnessed. That really I think it's about how to witness does and even if you don't score a lot of over points in that way to have. The witness scenes smarmy even if there you know finding ways around questions. In terms of emotion I think normally government lawyers try to be. In some ways passionate but also seemed like then it's not personal they're just trying to be justice denied. But it I think it's OK to look like you care about the case as well and the stakes for this kind of crime are huge rated has done so much damage to New Orleans in Louisiana over the years the perception that this is the place where. You have to pay to play that got business can't come here -- propping him up for bribes. And reading. The testimony about Home Depot and the mayor calling the CEO and sort of offering his help at the same time is asking for. Contracts on installing counter tops for his son in asking that very directly emails to home Depot's -- from his. Mayor Ray Nagin email write that that's just such a shame it hurts the city economically so I think this is a big deal. You know what did we do before emails. French -- because that is quite a trail it is it is and it's one that. Tried to be destroyed that there its -- whole controversy over the emails being destroyed in what was public record -- pleasant but the -- it does sleep -- how people should remember that. I want everyone to stay with us were gonna continue to talk about the Ray -- trial but but some other recent trials. That have been of great interest and stay with this but now let's go to the newsroom and -- -- We are so happy to have Tonya tough love -- who's a professor of law at Tulane university and she sort of updating us on. On a fascinating trial with Ray Nagin were again going to talk about two other ones too but I wanted to complete list. Look we have not discussed. Not reining in its defense. How Robert Jenkins can handle that. Well I Robert Jenkins still have to work with the facts ever given to him so he's tried -- two pronged approach one is to say that. Nagin didn't really receive these benefits that he valued because. They were just investments in his son's company or. Trips that weren't a big deal. And he has been set also that the mayor didn't have that much input and giving benefit to the companies that purported to bribe him senate. That some of the contracts are actual public bid contracts that the mayor was signing things that he didn't really look at that he wasn't part of that process. The problem is that there are lots of documentation. That the mayor was very involved in these prophecies and and I think party irony for. The people watching in the cases for mayor -- always criticized for being very hands offer things died on his staff skin. And it after Katrina when things are so desperate for the city that he really wasn't getting things done that he was spending that much time on emails and phone calls working on. Granite contracts for his son's company cannibalize the idea that he wasn't engaged and that way. And I don't think it goes very far to say that -- of the cash given to sons company. Didn't matter because he owns the company as well and in amounts that kept changing and all the different documents from 20% to 60% in DC clearly very engaged -- while he was mayor. And so I think you know Dinkins did what he could with what he had. The percentage of ownership what was interesting to me because I saw that it was changing too. But didn't understand that it below 25%. Allowed to shoot certain things of what like pushing 20% 20%. So apparently after an ethics on the investigation kicked in. -- and the rules in the states say that you can't accept benefits. From a city contractor for company you own more than 20% up so. If you had stock in Texaco that doesn't mean that they can still do business with the city. But when you are major owner accompanied that they cannot it's seen as just you getting benefit. And so at the time Nagin and was listed at. 40% to 60% ownership and then suddenly they re ticker back to drop to 20% in -- assigned some of the value to his wife. The let's talk about the sentencing it's 21 counts. Let's say that he is found guilty on. Many of them but not at all. What does that mean. So the way federal sentencing works is interesting it's not really about the number of counts and you cannot get a sentence above the maximum penalties so. The number of counts matters because that bumps up the maximum penalties if you're convicted of 15 your count that's. All you can get. But if you're convicted of three tenure -- seeing it up to thirty years you're not going to get thirty years that you're gonna get what the sentencing guidelines recommend for the most part the judges not bound by them but tends to follow them. And they are literally a chart that has a point systems so it's. Eight points because the -- a public official in a position of trust it's another set up points. Because of accumulated. Amount of fraud at stake with the -- And that amount that number may change depending on if the jury says we believe this scheme but not that scheme but right now he's in a range of something like. Two and a half million to seven million so even if they didn't believe all the schemes he wouldn't actually drop down and and it still wouldn't matter that much to his sentence so. I've run those figures and by my calculations. They're they're something's hard to tell on the front end but he's looking at more than twenty years. It's a long time. That's a long time. In -- in he has not been found guilty absolutely no this is only if he's convicted and let's say let's just say he is convicted. And that he wants to appeal I will he have to go to jail and do the appeal or will he be let out. That will be at the discretion of the trial judge injured -- and some times. If the defendant has a clear issue on appeal that something it's come up like -- -- and after its case where juror was struck for refusing to deliberate. That was clearly going to be a big issue on appeal that might reverse the conviction. So. The former governor is left out on appeal until his conviction was. Affirmed. In this case I don't see any big things that have come up in that way so it'll be up to the judge whether she. -- about pending sentencing and then again pending appeal but she made. It's within her power and ask him to report on immediately after the verdict -- -- It's just it is just startling. When you think in these terms and and again this man has not been found guilty he's he's still. It's in the jury's hands but I think all of us are talking about it and the man was -- year. And to even be at this moment is. Shocking yes it is and and and what came out a shocking regardless of whether he's convicted right yes that is correct. We have a caller Tony from -- are you had a comment. Blow it. Up in Morgan. County -- you. Injure on that particular trial. Are. -- Honestly. I don't know I was wondering that myself and I haven't figured it out judges vary on whether they allow that I think that they should be allowed to but sometimes. Judges don't allow the because they want the jurors paying attention and not just trying to write down everything that's happened so I was second answer your question in this case. Realize that -- get a certain certainly Europe twice. And I think it's unconstitutional. Signals. At all information. Then there's only two people would certainly aren't in -- Every good quality information because unconstitutional. Or you know. Right at about -- I don't know if I think it's unconstitutional but I think it's unwise I agree with you and the one thing I'll tell you in this cases that the jurors will have access to all those exhibit so all of those documents and emails and tax -- at least look after all of that to help remember. -- -- -- I think you could talk to your state legislator for state law. But federal court you'd have to talk to member of congress. I'm married like that Tony your man of action -- And thank you very very much. It brings up a very good point it was overwhelm. Amount of material and I know that in their closing arguments that the prosecution. Did sort of go ABC DE. Put it back in perspective again right after you've heard so much and as a former prosecutor you must have had those moments of gee will they be able to comprehend everything we said well that's why you use the charts in the grass -- you try to make it a straightforward issue candidates -- mean one thing that I think. Well well in this cases that the government went pretty quickly. Which surprised a lot of journalists covering the case but if you can keep it as simple as possible and I think -- much more likely to keep the jury's attention during a trial. Because they are often far more boring than they seem so you don't fans that they that you don't add some. Sometimes I think we add complexity because it seems more impressive but actually keeping it honed down to the basic facts skip the jury's attention batter. Stay with us we're gonna continue with Tonya -- We're gonna talk about the Jefferson flooding trial and also the recent. Officer McCain being let out of prison right after this. We are with Tonya -- who was a law professor at Tulane who were talking about the negative trial but now we're gonna move on to. The Jefferson flooding trial. And those who blamed -- Bruce court's decision to let pump operators -- causing the flooding of their homes. They lost that I have to tell you I read that story a couple of times and still in it. It's confusing says the in in normal. Tort case if someone caused damage to your property. And they did it through negligence she could recover from that. But we have a higher standard for government and and that makes sense he wouldn't want people to suit every time. Government did something negligent because that's taxpayer money that -- the suits in so we tend to have a little bit more wiggle room for government actors. And in Louisiana it's apparently the standard that you have to show willful and reckless negligence. -- willful recklessness and here's the jury found that negligence but not that higher standard that would allow recovery. But the confusing part was that the jury found that the flooding was not. Caused by an act of god which implies that it was caused by something else but the and they held that. The defendant's negligence did not cause the flooding. And so it's unclear what they opted cause the price. If I don't think you could look at Katrina and it wasn't the failure at the pump operators to be closed by then it's unclear what it is that. It plaintiffs' lawyers are. Bringing emotion it was reported today to the giants it is argued that there's something wrong with that verdict in task for some relief so we'll see Havoc with. So they could either ask for a new trial or just and you re look at this. I suppose I mean I think that they probably regardless of causation and lost on two grounds and lost because at this. Finding a new causation. But they also lost the user's finding -- finding -- -- higher level of negligence and their they're probably cattle on this -- I remember that as we watch the news tonight and tomorrow. Officer McCain was sent to prison after being found guilty of covering up the Henry Glover murder case. He was working on an appeal but then it was the US attorneys said you know once we're done. Well so that that trial judge actually said after trial what happens I understand it is that the defense. Found a piece of evidence that that they had it wasn't that the government had never given it to them but I think believe that they had it all along that just had noticed it. That was an earlier version of the police report that McCabe was charged with. Doctoring to cover up the crime. And this earlier version please report showed that this changes the cover -- changes have already been made before McCain. Had gotten involved in the case that's my understanding it. And says that tended to show. Decades innocence in the case said the trial judge this is found right after trial. Egypt Africa reverse the conviction right away in granite in each round -- even have to go to appeal and that's been pending for our. A couple of years now and the new units attorneys along with the Department of Justice -- decision not to go ahead and -- McCain. On either they think they can't convict him -- they think maybe. They -- on evidence in the case it's unclear -- -- on a fresh start in this. Case that is -- are problematic for them buy it says that visits in the -- is now free to go in the charges are dismissed and can never be brought again. Do you just look the law you have. I wish people could see her face because it's it's this has been such an interesting thing it is interest in these cases into the layperson again just reading the newspaper. It's it's real human drama in the sense it doesn't have much more dramatic than -- post-Katrina and a PD shootings -- that's right. And with things that were happening at the US attorney's office and the complexity of that just added to it and so when these cases come down like -- ago. OK now I need to better understand. Thank you Tonya -- we're gonna get you back many times -- appreciate all your insights into all these cases it's a pleasure to be here. I want everyone to stay with us because we're gonna come back a little bit with our code word for our 1000 dollar prize stay with this. Will be Ray Nagin cases in the hands of the jury it is 21 counts it's one count of conspiracy six counts of bribery. Nine counts of wire fraud one count of money laundering conspiracy. And four counts of filing false tax returns. Will be very interesting to see what happens we will be here at all times to Latinos in between now. And I truly appreciate Tonya tableau giving us her insight. One as a former prosecutor but also on and is now an academic. Law. I'm very excited about our next hour and a to a big mental shift -- going to be talking The Beatles. With one of America's really biggest experts on that and he's our own. I'm Bruce Spicer. Who was going to be calling in because he's now staying at the hotel where The Beatles state health. He knows everything there is -- so if you wanna give us a call and talk to him about any questions or any trivia or fun things you know I'm sure he would love to hear from.