Edwards Gets 10 Years

Former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards was sentenced to 10 years in prison and fined $250,000 today for racketeering and extortion.

U.S. District Judge Frank Polozola imposed the sentence, which was only slightly short of the maximum of 11 years and $500,000 allowed under federal guidelines.

Edwards, 73, showed little emotion as the decision was read, but his daughters and wife sobbed.

“A long sentence is effectively a death sentence,” said Edwards’ lawyer Dan Small, who immediately filed notice of appeal.

Convicted on 17 Counts

Edwards, a four-term Democratic governor, was found guilty with his son Stephen and three other men in May. Edwards was convicted of 17 counts of racketeering, extortion, fraud and conspiracy. Former gubernatorial aide Andrew Martin, cattleman Cecil Brown and Baton Rouge businessman Bobby Johnson also were convicted.

The trial was highlighted by tales of huge sums of cash changing hands, of secretly recorded conversations and the public betrayal of Edwards by men with whom he once socialized and frequently gambled.

Last month, Polozola threw out six fraud convictions against the Edwardses. But he let stand the more serious racketeering and extortion counts against the former governor and his son. Each carried a maximum 20-year prison sentence.

U.S. Attorney Eddie Jordan has said his office hasn’t decided whether it will retry the men on the voided charges.

Challenging Secret Monitoring

The riverboat gambling investigation stemmed from wiretaps on Edwards’ home telephone and a microphone hidden in his law office for nearly three years. Edwards is challenging the validity of the government’s secret monitoring.

Louisiana owes much of its reputation as a corrupt state to Edwards, a federal prosecutor said before sentencing.

“People to this day think, thanks largely in part to Edwin Edwards and his codefendants in this case, that Louisiana is a hostile and dangerous place to do business. It’s the Edwards legacy,” assistant U.S. attorney Jim Letten said.

Edwards’ attorney dismissed Letten’s argument as a fantasy.

The defense had argued that the former governor’s sentence should be short because he would be abused by other prisoners who know his reputation. On the contrary, Letten said, Edwards’ reputation would help him because it would make him more popular among other prisoners.