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Forfeiture request filed against former Louisiana mayor Nagin

In addition to traditional punishments like fines and imprisonment following a criminal conviction, some Baton Rouge, Louisiana, defendants suffer the added penalty of asset forfeiture. A government may confiscate what it feels are ill-gotten gains with a "preponderance of the evidence." This is a lower standard of proof than "beyond a reasonable doubt," making it easier for the government to lay claim to a defendant's property.

Ex-New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin has had a difficult year. The former city official was convicted of 16 counts of money laundering, fraud and bribery in February, plus four counts of intentionally filing false tax returns. Now, the federal government wants Nagin's assets that it believes were attached to corruption.

At the beginning of April, federal prosecutors filed forfeiture papers requesting a court's permission to take $501,200 from Nagin. The amount reportedly represents the total of illicit payments and perks Nagin received. The forfeiture claim includes recovery of bribes and kickbacks linked to personal business contracts, travel excursions and illegal cash.

Prosecutors urged a judge to approve the request, claiming the burden of proof was met through the conviction. A judge rather than a jury will make the final forfeiture decision. The attorneys in the case agreed before Nagin's trial to resolve possible forfeiture issues without a jury's help.

The motion also stated the government could have submitted a larger request than the half million dollar claim but chose to confine the amount to corruption charges. Prosecutors did not ask for assets related to Nagin's charges for tax violations. A judge's ruling in favor of prosecutors doesn't mean the government will collect what it wants.

Ray Nagin's defense fund is now being built upon contributions. Just months ahead of sentencing, the former mayor said he was penniless. A criminal defense attorney can help defendants and their families avoid financial ruin by fighting to preserve or recover seized property.

Source: The Times-Picayune, "Feds going after Ray Nagin for $500K following corruption conviction" Robert McClendon, Apr. 08, 2014

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