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Former New Orleans mayor pleads not guilty to federal corruption charges

Matthew Hinton / AP

Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin arrives at the Hale Boggs Federal Building and U.S. District Courthouse to appear in federal court for an arraignment on public corruption charges in New Orleans.

Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin pleaded not guilty to a slew of federal corruption charges Wednesday afternoon, including bribery, conspiracy, and money laundering.

Nagin, 56, who gained national prominence after Hurricane Katrina devastated his city, is accused of accepting bribes or kickbacks from three prominent city contractors while New Orleans struggled to recover from the disaster. The graft schemes included $50,000 in free granite for Nagin's family countertop business and nine wire-transfer payoffs totaling $112,500.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Sally Shushan set Nagin's trial for April 29 at 10 a.m. The former mayor's bond was set at $100,000 during Wednesday's arraignment. His travel is confined to Louisiana and Texas, where Nagin now lives.

Wednesday's afternoon in court was his first public appearance since a federal grand jury delivered a 21-count public corruption indictment in January, Reuters reported.

Two of three city contractors who allegedly bribed Nagin -- Frank Fradella and Rodney Williams -- have signed plea deals that require them to testify against Nagin at his trial this spring.

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Williams has acknowledged a graft scheme in which he gave Nagin and his sons $72,500 in cash in exchange for the mayor's promise to direct city engineering contracts to Williams' former firm, Three Fold Consultants. Fradella has admitted to bribing Nagin with $50,000 and gifting him at least two truckloads of granite to Stone Age, LLC, Nagin's family countertop concern.

A third contractor, technology vendor Mark St. Pierre, is currently serving out a nearly 18-year prison sentence for bribing Greg Meffert, Nagin's one-time chief technology officer, who pleaded guilty to conducting under-the-table deals with St. Pierre.

Nagin, a former cable TV executive, emerged on the political scene in 2002, with his first successful run for the top spot at City Hall. He was a fixture of news coverage after Hurricane Katrina slammed the Gulf Coast, known for his brash and unorthodox style.

But after Nagin was re-elected for a second term in 2006, he was criticized for what was widely seen as a slow post-Katrina recovery and fell out of favor with many of his constituents.

Mitch Landrieu, who ran against Nagin in the 2006 election cycle, succeeded him in 2010. Term limits prevented Nagin from seeking a third stint in office.