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Ex-New Orleans Mayor found guilty of corruption charges

(CNN) -- Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, whose desperate pleas for help during Hurricane Katrina drew national attention, walked silently out of a courthouse Wednesday after a jury convicted him of federal corruption charges.

Nagin was elected as a reformer in 2002. But after a two-week trial that began in late January, he was found guilty of 20 out of 21 counts of bribery, money laundering, fraud and filing false tax returns, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. The sole acquittal was on one of the bribery counts.

Nagin left the courthouse without commenting Wednesday afternoon, accompanied by his wife and his lawyers. His lead attorney, Robert Jenkins, told reporters his client would appeal the convictions.

"We did the best we could do," Jenkins said.

Prosecutors had accused Nagin of being at the center of a kickback scheme in which he received checks, cash, wire transfers, personal services and free travel from businessmen seeking contracts and favorable treatment from the city.

The charges detailed more than $200,000 in bribes to the mayor, and his family members allegedly received a vacation in Hawaii; first-class airfare to Jamaica; private jet travel and a limousine for New York City; and cellular phone service. In exchange, businesses that coughed up cash for Nagin and his family won more than $5 million in city contracts, according to the January 2013 indictment.

The earliest of the charges date from before Katrina, which struck when Nagin had been in office for about three years. The storm flooded more than three-fourths of low-lying New Orleans when it struck on August 29, 2005, and left more than 1,800 dead -- most of them in Louisiana.

Supporters credited Nagin's sometimes-profane demands for aid from Washington with helping reveal the botched federal response to the storm -- a fiasco that embarrassed the George W. Bush administration and led to billions of federal dollars being poured into Gulf Coast reconstruction efforts.

But the onetime cable-television executive also had his detractors: A congressional committee criticized him for delaying evacuation orders, and his frantic description of post-storm New Orleans as a violent wasteland with up to 10,000 dead turned out to be greatly exaggerated.

As he sought re-election in 2006, with much of the city's African-American population displaced by storm damage, Nagin was blasted for insisting that New Orleans would remain a "chocolate" city.

Nagin won a second term despite the controversies, but left office with his approval ratings in the cellar and told CNN his career in public office was over.