The law is going

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Prosecutors appear to be closing in on former Gov. Edwin Edwards, the wily Cajun who once boasted, “The rules that apply to ordinary people do not fit me.”
Piece by piece, damaging evidence is stacking up against Edwards, who is suspected of extorting millions in payoffs to steer riverboat casino licenses to friends and cronies while in and out of office.
He has survived two dozen investigations by his own proud count. In the mid-1980s, the Democrat was tried twice on federal racketeering charges involving hospital and nursing home investments. The first trial ended in a hung jury, the second in his acquittal.
But this time, the government’s two-year investigation has led to some of Edwards’ closest friends and business partners turning against him. Four of them have struck deals in which they have agreed to testify for the government if Edwards is indicted.
Among them: San Francisco 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr., who claims he was forced to give Edwards $400,000 to head off problems with his application for a riverboat license.
Another friend, Robert Guidry, acknowledged in court last week that he paid Edwards and two others $1.5 million, sometimes leaving the money in trash bins, to ensure approval of his riverboat project. Guidry, a millionaire tugboat operator, was part of Edwards’ inner circle and once a regular at $10,000-ante poker games at the governor’s mansion.
“That’s what makes this one a little different,” said Wayne Parent, a political science professor at Louisiana State University. “A lot of us think his chances for real trouble are much higher this time.”
Edwards said that he expects to be indicted but that he has done nothing wrong.
He has acknowledged getting the $400,000 from DeBartolo but has insisted it was for legitimate lobbying purposes.
Asked recently if he thought the government would ever give up, he said: “Maybe when I die and am buried. Then they will dig me up three days later and say I was in the wrong grave.” And when DeBartolo pleaded guilty, just before his football team was to play the New Orleans Saints, Edwards deadpanned: “I hope the 49ers lose on Sunday.”
One reason for all the deals with prosecutors, Parent said, could be that Edwards no longer has the influence he once had.
“In the past, crossing Edwin Edwards had the possibility of coming back to haunt you down the line. Maybe that’s no longer the case,” Parent said.
Guidry, as part of his plea bargain, will pay $3.5 million and could also get up to five years in prison. He has sold his interest in the Treasure Chest casino near New Orleans.
DeBartolo, for his part, agreed to pay $1 million in penalties. He won a license for a riverboat casino but withdrew from the project after being called before the grand jury last year.