B A T O N R O U G E, La., Jan. 8, 2001 -- Former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards wassentenced to 10 years in prison and fined $250,000 today forracketeering and extortion.
U.S. District Judge Frank Polozola imposed the sentence, whichwas only slightly short of the maximum of 11 years and $500,000allowed under federal guidelines.
Edwards, 73, showed little emotion as the decision was read, buthis daughters and wife sobbed.
“A long sentence is effectively a death sentence,” saidEdwards’ lawyer Dan Small, who immediately filed notice of appeal.
Convicted on 17 Counts
Edwards, a four-term Democratic governor, was found guilty withhis son Stephen and three other men in May. Edwards was convictedof 17 counts of racketeering, extortion, fraud and conspiracy.Former gubernatorial aide Andrew Martin, cattleman Cecil Brown andBaton Rouge businessman Bobby Johnson also were convicted.
The trial was highlighted by tales of huge sums of cash changinghands, of secretly recorded conversations and the public betrayalof Edwards by men with whom he once socialized and frequentlygambled.
Last month, Polozola threw out sixfraud convictions against the Edwardses. But he let stand the moreserious racketeering and extortion counts against the formergovernor and his son. Each carried a maximum 20-year prisonsentence.
U.S. Attorney Eddie Jordan has said his office hasn’t decidedwhether it will retry the men on the voided charges.
Challenging Secret Monitoring
The riverboat gambling investigation stemmed from wiretaps onEdwards’ home telephone and a microphone hidden in his law officefor nearly three years. Edwards is challenging the validity of thegovernment’s secret monitoring.
Louisiana owes much of its reputation as a corrupt state toEdwards, a federal prosecutor said before sentencing.
“People to this day think, thanks largely in part to EdwinEdwards and his codefendants in this case, that Louisiana is ahostile and dangerous place to do business. It’s the Edwardslegacy,” assistant U.S. attorney Jim Letten said.
Edwards’ attorney dismissed Letten’s argument as afantasy.
The defense had argued that the former governor’s sentence should beshort because he would be abused by other prisoners who know hisreputation. On the contrary, Letten said, Edwards’ reputation wouldhelp him because it would make him more popular among otherprisoners.