By CAIN BURDEAU
A Louisiana legislator said Wednesday he is being investigated by the FBI and claimed it may be because he wouldn’t give agents information about possible wrongdoing by Rep. William Jefferson and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin.
State Sen. Derrick Shepherd denied any wrongdoing and said he has no evidence of wrongdoing by either Jefferson or Nagin. He has not been charged with a crime.
Earlier this week, an FBI agent testified in a court hearing that Shepherd, a Democrat from suburban Marrero, helped a convicted felon launder more than $140,000 in bogus construction bond fees last year and kept nearly half the money.
Shepherd, at a news conference, said FBI agents visited his home months ago asking if he could provide evidence of wrongdoing by Jefferson or Nagin.
“I would hate to think that this investigation of me is in any way, connected to my inability to provide any information related to the prosecution of Congressman Jefferson or any investigation of Mayor Nagin that may be under way,” Shepherd said.
U.S. Attorney Jim Letten, who has aggressively prosecuted New Orleans corruption cases, would not comment on Shepherd’s claims. “I am not going to respond to anything Mr. Shepherd says,” he said.
An FBI spokesman had no comment on Shepherd’s claims.
Nagin, a Democrat who toyed with a run for governor this fall but did not sign up for the race, has not been linked to allegations of wrongdoing in his two terms in office. He has boasted that he has run a scandal-free administration.
“I am disappointed by the reckless allegations made today by Senator Shepherd in an apparent effort to deflect attention from his own legal problems,” Nagin said.
“I want to be clear: I am not now, nor have I ever been, the subject of any investigation of wrongdoing. I have a proven track record of transparency and have been a champion of ethics and anti-corruption during my tenure as mayor,” he said.
In August, City Councilman Oliver Thomas stepped down after pleading guilty to federal charges of taking bribes during the administration of Nagin’s predecessor, Marc Morial. Federal authorities have been investigating City Hall corruption for years, netting several guilty pleas from people connected to Morial’s administration though Morial has not been accused of wrongdoing.
Jefferson, also a Democrat, is under indictment in Virginia on bribery, racketeering and other charges connected with an alleged Nigerian business scheme.
Jefferson was re-elected last year despite the indictment. Shepherd was one of several challengers in the primary election, placing third. He later endorsed Jefferson in a runoff election, which Jefferson won over the second-place finisher, state Rep. Karen Carter.