Edwards Fraud Convictions Tossed

A federal judge today tossed out more fraud convictions against former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards, but let stand more serious extortion and racketeering convictions.

“Strong independent evidence supports without a doubt the other convictions,” said U.S. District Judge Frank Polozola, who based his dismissal of fraud counts on a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

It was not clear how the voided convictions would affect sentencing for Edwards and his son, Stephen, who were convicted with three others in May in a conspiracy to rig riverboat casino licenses.

Edwards said he was disappointed but not surprised the judge let the other convictions stand.

“It’s a partial victory, but it’s not going to do us much good,” Edwards said. “It’s something to be thankful for. Every now and then a blind hog finds an acorn.”

Awaiting Sentencing

The ruling came after two days of hearings, during which Polozola questioned the jury foreman and reviewed convictions of co-defendant Bobby Johnson, who missed part of the trial because of heart surgery.

On Wednesday, Polozola threw out three fraud convictions — two against Edwards and his son and a third against Johnson. Today’s ruling tossed out the remaining mail and wire fraud convictions against the Edwardses — three for fraud and one for conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.

“We don’t think this will affect sentencing in any way,” U.S. Attorney Eddie Jordan said. “Sentencing is driven by the other counts.”

Jordan said he was unsure if prosecutors would retry the voided counts or if they would appeal the judge’s ruling.

Virtual Life Sentence? Edwards, 73, was convicted of 17 counts of racketeering and fraud and acquitted of nine counts. He had faced a maximum sentence of 250 years in prison and fines totaling $4.5 million, although federal probation authorities reportedly recommended imprisonment for 11 to 14 years for Louisiana’s only four-term governor.

Stephen Edwards was convicted of 18 counts and acquitted of five. His maximum punishment could be 255 years imprisonment and $4.5 million in fines.

Polozola referred to a November ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in a separate Louisiana gambling corruption case, involving a New Orleans lawyer, that federal mail fraud laws do not apply to state licenses that have not yet been awarded.

Polozola planned to continue hearing testimony Friday regarding Johnson’s motion for a new trial.

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