Former New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin testifying on Capitol Hill, September 23, 2008 in Washington, DC.
*Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin has pleaded not guilty to charges he accepted bribes, free trips and other gratuities in exchange for helping contractors secure millions of dollars in work for the city.
U.S. Magistrate Sally Shushan set Nagin’s bond at $100,000 during his arraignment Wednesday on charges that include bribery, wire fraud and filing false tax returns, reports CBS News.
A 21-count indictment last month accuses Nagin of accepting more than $200,000 in bribes, free loads of granite for a family business and trips to Hawaii, Jamaica and other places.
The charges against Nagin are the product of a City Hall corruption investigation that already has resulted in guilty pleas by two former city officials and two businessmen and a prison sentence for a former city vendor.
Hurricane Katrina elevated Nagin to the national stage, where he gained a reputation for colorful rhetoric in getting federal officials to help with the catastrope. During a radio interview broadcast in the storm’s early aftermath, he angrily pleaded with federal officials to “get every doggone Greyhound bus line in the country and get their asses moving to New Orleans.”
His arraignment Wednesday marked a rare public appearance for Nagin, who now lives in Frisco, Texas, and has kept a low-profile since he left office in 2010.
*Co-creator David Simon will get his wish to finish his New Orleans-based series “Treme” in four seasons… well, 3.5 seasons.
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During a screening for the show’s production staff last night in New Orleans on the eve of the show’s third season premiere on Sunday, Simon announced that the post-Hurricane Katrina drama will conclude its run with an abbreviated fourth season.
“We are going to be back for a season 3.5,” Simon said, according to Nola.com. “HBO, upon viewing the 10 (episodes from Season 3) that we gave them and what we’ve done, they want to see the end of the story. They fought very hard to give us half a loaf. We’re going to take it and run.”
Simon’s announcement comes amidst speculation that HBO brass had been mulling an end for “Treme,” which has never been a commercial success, reports Deadline.com. The series created by Simon and Eric Overmyer premiered to 1.1 million viewers, dropping to 605,000 viewers in its second season opener.
*Where were you when Hurricane Katrina happened?
Can you remember the morning those planes crashed into the towers?
So many people followed these events on television because our hearts went out to those who were directly affected, but many of us held our breath waiting to see if the news anchors would release a grisly list of names of loved ones that may include one of ours.
Nielsen and Sony performed a recent study on 1,077 American adults that concluded with the top three spots of powerful moments being: the O.J. Simpson verdict, Hurricane Katrina and at the #1 spot, 9/11. (more…)
*Lionel Batiste, the vocalist, bass drummer and assistant leader of the Treme Brass Band, has died, reports the Associated Press. He was 81.
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Batiste often appeared on the HBO series “Treme.” He was the slim guy with the big drum in the band, one of the acts regularly featured on the show.
Batiste died Sunday at the Ochsner Health System’s hospital just outside New Orleans, said his daughter, Karen Williams.
Known as “Uncle Lionel,” the musician had been ill for about a month, said band leader Benny Jones Sr. He said Mr. Batiste had been with the band since it was formed in 1995, but had played bass drum since childhood.
Batiste used his drum to stay afloat in the floods after Hurricane Katrina, clarinetist Michael White said.
“The water kept rising,” White said. “He couldn’t swim. The water was too high for him to walk out. He saved himself by floating out on top of his bass drum.”
“I’m broken-hearted,” said actor Wendell Pierce, who played trombonist Antoine Batiste on “Treme.”
“He’s part of a long line of great musicians and great family.”
*Five former New Orleans police officers were sentenced Wednesday to prison terms ranging from six to 65 years for their roles in fatal shootings of unarmed residents on a bridge after Hurricane Katrina.
Kenneth Bowen, Robert Gisevius, Anthony Villavaso and Robert Faulcon were convicted of firearms charges in the shootings. Retired Sgt. Arthur “Archie” Kaufman, who was assigned to investigate the shootings, was convicted of helping orchestrate the cover-up.
Faulcon received the stiffest sentence of 65 years. Bowen and Gisevius each got 40 years while Villavaso was sentenced to 38 years. Kaufman received the lightest sentence at six years.
A federal jury convicted the officers in August 2011 of civil rights violations in the shootings on the Danziger Bridge and the cover-up.
Police shot six people, killing two, less than a week after the storm’s landfall on Aug. 29, 2005. To make the shootings appear justified, officers conspired to plant a gun, fabricate witnesses and falsify reports.
The case became the centerpiece of the Justice Department’s push to clean up the troubled New Orleans Police Department.
*Brad Pitt has recruited Rihanna, Kanye West, Snoop Dogg and Spike Lee among others to appear at a charity gala he’s holding in New Orleans to benefit his post-Hurricane Katrina cause, the Make It Right foundation.
The shindig, co-hosted by New Orleans native Ellen DeGeneres, will be held Saturday at the Hyatt Regency on Saturday. Saints quarterback Drew Brees will co-emcee the music portion of the event.
Other guests and performers include Sheryl Crow, Sean Penn, Kevin Spacey, Spike Lee, Blake Lively, Djimon Hounsou, Chris and Jada Paul, Bennett Miller and Randy Jackson, according to E! News.
For the afterparty, “Parks and Recreation” star Aziz Ansari will host, and Seal and Kanye have been tapped to perform. Emeril Lagasse will cook special New Orleans dishes.
The gala will help raise funds for lower-income housing in the Lower 9th Ward, a neighborhood in New Orleans that was devastated by Hurricane Katrina. They aim to complete 150 houses.
Below, Brangelina and their six kids have already been spotted around New Orleans.
Angelina Jolie with son Pax, and daughters Vivienne (l) and Zahara go to the market in New Orleans (March 11, 2012).