- Associated Press - Thursday, September 4, 2014

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A federal judge Thursday sentenced a former city technology chief to 2½ years in prison for his role in a bribery scheme that ensnared former Mayor Ray Nagin.

Greg Meffert could have been sentenced to eight years under federal guidelines, but U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon granted a lighter sentence with the blessing of federal prosecutors, who said Meffert’s cooperation was a valuable aid in securing guilty verdicts against Nagin and former city contractor Mark St. Pierre.

Meffert also served as deputy mayor after Nagin took office in 2002. He left city government during Nagin’s second term and was indicted in 2009, months before Nagin’s time as mayor ended.

Meffert pleaded guilty in 2010 to one count of conspiracy and a count of filing a false tax return. His subsequent testimony led to convictions against Nagin and St. Pierre in a series of schemes that involved payoffs including free trips and money. Meffert admitted to accepting about $860,000 in bribes from St. Pierre, whose firms collected millions from the city.

“It was hubris. It was vanity,” said a puffy-faced Meffert, his voice shaking as he apologized for his wrongdoing. He said he is bankrupt and his reputation is ruined.

He described taking care of his dying father in the years since his guilty plea and said his wife, two children and elderly mother still need him. “I learned that I can be a very critical person to lean on when I’m not about ‘me’ anymore,” he said.

Defense attorney Randall Smith asked for home incarceration and prosecutor Matt Coman didn’t object, saying Meffert is a changed man who greatly helped prosecutors. Fallon said he had to balance numerous factors in the sentencing, including deterrence to others who might contemplate such crimes, the seriousness of Meffert’s violation of the public trust and his lack of any previous criminal record.

Nagin, a Democrat who has continued to insist that he committed no crime, was convicted in February for bribery, wire fraud and money laundering involving hundreds of thousands of dollars. He has appealed the conviction but is scheduled to begin serving a 10-year sentence Sept. 8.

Meffert will have to report to prison in early January. Smith asked Fallon to recommend a facility in Bastrop, Texas, about 30 miles southeast of Austin, Texas. The Federal Bureau of Prisons will decide where Meffert will serve his sentence.

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