Nagin witness, contractor Rodney Williams, gets 1 year, 1 day in city hall corruption case

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NEW ORLEANS — A businessman who pleaded guilty in a New Orleans City Hall corruption case and provided key testimony against former Mayor Ray Nagin was sentenced Wednesday to a year and a day in federal prison.

Rodney Williams pleaded guilty in 2012 to a charge of conspiracy to commit bribery. In February, he was the lead witness against Nagin, who began serving a 10-year sentence Monday. Williams' testimony outlined $60,000 in payoffs to secure city contracts.

U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan sentenced Williams, 49, after he tearfully apologized to his family. Williams' defense attorney asked for a recommendation that Williams serve the sentence at the prison at Oakdale, Louisiana. He is to report by Nov. 10.

Nagin, a Democrat who served two terms as mayor from 2002 to 2010, was convicted on 20 counts including bribery, money laundering and conspiracy. He is appealing the conviction.

"I'm sorry my decision has caused all of this and I pray that everyone forgives me," Williams told Morgan in a halting voice as family members looked on.

The scene was reminiscent of last week's sentencing of Greg Meffert, the city technology chief under Nagin, who was sentenced to 2½ years for his role in City Hall corruption. Meffert, tearful and contrite, was facing a possible eight years under federal sentencing guidelines but prosecutors urged a lighter sentence.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Coman praised Williams' cooperation on Wednesday. And defense lawyer Ralph Capitelli said Williams was an effective lead witness for prosecutors. "He hit an inside the park homerun," Capitelli said.

Morgan, recapping complicated sentencing laws and guidelines, said at one point that Williams could be in line for more than three years in prison. Capitelli asked for probation, noting that two partners in Williams' old contracting firm were able to take part in a pre-trial diversion program to avoid a trial and prison.

Morgan decided on 12 months plus one day. "You have caused harm to the citizens of New Orleans, to your family and, ultimately, to yourself," she told Williams before handing down the sentence.

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