- Associated Press - Thursday, February 20, 2014

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A bit player in the corruption scheme that snagged two New Orleans City Hall technology chiefs, and ultimately former Mayor Ray Nagin, was sentenced Thursday to four months in federal prison and five months of house arrest.

U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon imposed the sentence on Dwaine Hodges, who pleaded guilty and helped prosecutors convict his former boss, Mark St. Pierre, as well as Nagin.

Still, the New Orleans Advocate reports (http://bit.ly/1mfSSd2 ), the punishment was stiffer than Hodges’ family and his attorneys expected especially after Fallon described Hodges as a mere “courier” in a bribery scheme involving St. Pierre and the city’s former chief technology officer, Anthony Jones.

Jones admitted taking $22,000 in bribes from St. Pierre that Hodges helped deliver yet was sentenced to two years of probation by U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval.

Mary Olive Pierson, one of Hodges’ attorneys, said she was “disappointed, considering (Hodges’) level of cooperation, which the government agreed to, and everything he has done to rehabilitate himself.”

Hodges has done “hundreds of hours of community service,” said Fred Crifasi, another of his attorneys.

Before imposing the sentence, Fallon said he believed Hodges’ “knowledge of the overall scheme” was limited, and that he thought Hodges’ testimony was “helpful, complete and reliable.”

As a result, the judge said, he was granting the government’s motion for a downward departure from federal sentencing guidelines, which would have called for a sentence of 10 to 16 months in prison

But, he added, “Public corruption is one of the most heinous crimes, because it is intentional, and it is only done for one reason: to help yourself.”

Corruption in the months and years after Hurricane Katrina was even more troubling, Fallon said, because it was a time when citizens especially needed honest government.

A group of Hodges’ relatives stood outside the courtroom, stunned, after Fallon’s announcement, with one of them hustling Hodges’ visibly upset wife onto an elevator.

“They lied!” she said as the doors closed.

Hodges was a longtime employee of St. Pierre, who had three technology firms that did work for the city: Imagine, NetMethods and Veracent. The companies worked under no-bid contracts awarded by Greg Meffert, whom Nagin named the city’s first-ever chief technology officer.

Meffert eventually pleaded guilty to accepting about $860,000 in bribes from St. Pierre, whose firms collected millions from the city. Meffert and Hodges both testified at St. Pierre’s 2011 bribery trial, which resulted in his conviction on 53 counts. Fallon sentenced St. Pierre to 17½ years in prison.

More recently, Meffert testified at Nagin’s corruption trial, telling jurors that Nagin knew St. Pierre was paying for trips to Hawaii and Jamaica, for cellphone service for Nagin’s sons, and for lawn care at his house.

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