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Deliberations resume in trial of former Louisiana governor
BATON ROUGE, Louisiana -- A federal jury resumed deliberations Tuesday in the corruption trial of former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards.
Edwards, his son and five others are charged with racketeering, extortion, money laundering and wire and mail fraud for allegedly extorting $3 million from people seeking riverboat casino licenses.
If convicted on all counts, the four-term governor could face more than 300 years in prison and millions of dollars in fines.
During the trial, prosecutors presented hundreds of secretly recorded telephone conversations and FBI surveillance videotapes of Edwards' office that they say support their case.
Jurors also heard from former San Francisco 49ers owner Edward DeBartolo Jr., who testified after striking a plea agreement that Edwards demanded $400,000 from him in 1997. DeBartolo said Edwards told him there would be a "serious problem" with his casino license if Edwards didn't get the money. DeBartolo, who was sentenced to two years probation instead of prison time, also said Edwards demanded a 1 percent interest in the casino.
DeBartolo was the only witness who directly linked Edwards to any alleged extortion schemes.
Two other people testified that Edwards' friends extorted hundreds of thousands of dollars from them on the governor's behalf.
'Gossip, innuendo and lies'
Edwards testified that he did take money, but only for legitimate legal work and consulting services.
In closing arguments Wednesday, Edwards' lawyer, David Small, accused prosecutors of making deals to coax witnesses to lie.
Small said the government's tapes prove that Edwards did nothing wrong. In fact, he said, they show Edwards supported DeBartolo's application.
"We do not in this country convict someone on gossip, innuendo and lies," he said.
'The greed never stopped'
In their closing arguments, prosecutors said that they had "unmasked a terribly corrupt governor."
They said Edwards conspired with his son, Stephen, state Sen. Greg Tarver, a member of the state Gaming Control Board and other well-connected people to extort millions of dollars.
They say the scheme began in 1991, when Edwards was out of office, continued through his final term as governor from 1992-1996, and went on after he retired.
The FBI raided his home and office in 1997, seizing records and $400,000 in cash that authorities said came from DeBartolo.
"The greed never stopped," Assistant U.S. Attorney Fred Harper said.
When Edwards was indicted in 1998, he said he was the victim of a vendetta by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Edwards was tried twice in the mid-1980s on federal racketeering charges involving a hospital and nursing home venture. He said he made $2 million from the deal, which he said was legal.
The first trial ended in a hung jury and the second in an acquittal.
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