RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
Ray Nagin was mayor of New Orleans during its darkest days, leading the city through Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. Now he's been sentenced to 10 years in federal prison. His conviction on corruption charges centered on trading city contracts and favors for about half a million dollars in cash and kickbacks. From member station WWNO, Eve Troeh reports.
EVE TROEH, BYLINE: In the court room, Ray Nagin maintained his innocence. Outside, onlookers gathered as a steamy sky threatened rain. Local businessman Clarence Hunt calls Nagin's punishment about right.
CLARENCE HUNT: He did what he did, but the judge decided that justice was fairness. It's fair for the community. It's fair for the family, and it's fair for Mr. Nagin. And so God is good.
TROEH: Like many residents, Dolores Quarrells doesn't see Nagin as a bad person.
DOLORES QUARRELLS: Now, he may have done something wrong, but I hope the best for him. I hope his family all can deal with it.
TROEH: Others extend no generosity. Waiting out the weather in a local bar and restaurant, Rene Alford says Nagin got lucky.
RENE ALFORD: He should've gotten 30 or 40. The court made its decision, and it's over. He's a rotten symbol. He doesn't represent anything except himself.
TROEH: At the same time, it's not lost on people that during Katrina, Nagin represented a whole city. His voice, loud, demanding more help, faster response - that's not forgotten. But the Nagin era, the good and bad, is now in the past, says Warren Poche.
WARREN POCHE: You can't live in the past. You've got to move on. Let's turn the page and continue to build the city back to where it belongs.
TROEH: Do you feel let down?
POCHE: Certainly. We needed leadership at the time, and we got none. And we got a guy who was stuffing his pockets.
TROEH: Probably lots more guys stuffing their pockets, he adds. Outside a coffee shop, the clouds get more serious. Paul Zaputo remembers Ray Nagin as the first New Orleans mayor to order a mandatory hurricane evacuation. That saved lives. Now he will be the first New Orleans mayor to go to jail for corruption.
PAUL ZAPUTO: I still think at the end of the day, he probably helped more than hurt. I'm not sure who could've done a better job. I guess he's getting what he deserves in the end so.
(SOUNDBITE OF THUNDER)
TROEH: Lightning and thunder cut him off as the rain finally falls. For NPR News, I'm Eve Troeh in New Orleans.
ZAPUTO: Well, it looks like it's a sad day all around. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.