Wednesday, March 1, 2006
It took the federal government a few trips to the well to convict former Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards -- elected to that office four times and one of the more colorful rogues in recent political history. Edwards and his son, Stephen, were convicted in 2000 on a variety of corruption charges, including RICO, and they received sentences of 120 months and 84 months, respectively. Even then, another federal trial after the conviction resulted in an acquittal of Edwards on different corruption charges.
After affirming the convictions on direct appeal in 2001 that was argued by Alan Dershowitz, the Fifth Circuit has now turned down the Edwards' Sec. 2255 motions to vacate the convictions on grounds that the government suppressed exculpatory evidence in violation of Brady v. Maryland. They first contended that a key government witness had a secret agreement with federal and state prosecutors to shield his gains from a gambling license obtained through bribery of then-Governor Edwards from a state civil forfeiture action, and along the way threw in a claim that the federal judge who took the witness' plea was a party to the secret agreement. The Fifth Circuit's opinion (U.S. v. Edwards here) flatly rejected the claim, finding no evidentiary support and noting that the state court hearing the civil forfeiture suit heard testimony that there was no such agreement. The second basis for the Sec. 2255 motions was that the government failed to disclose one of its witnesses was planning to write a book about his involvement in Edwards' bribery, a fact that the Fifth Circuit held was immaterial to the case and therefore not a ground to reverse the conviction.
This is likely the last gasp by Gov. Edwards to have his conviction overturned. He is currently serving his term at the Oakdale (LA) federal detention center, which includes a satellite camp for minimum security prisoners. His release date is July 2011, at which time he will be 83 years old.