Prosecution rests; defense asks for directed acquittal

BATON ROUGE, La. - After 66 witnesses and nine weeks of testimony, federal prosecutors on Thursday rested their racketeering case against former Gov. Edwin Edwards and six other men.

Defense attorneys immediately began asking for direct acquittals from U.S. District Judge Frank Polozola. It is not clear how long the motions and arguments will last, but Polozola has indicated that he wants the defense to start its case Monday.

Polozola dismissed jurors for the day. He ordered them not to begin thinking about whether anyone is guilty or innocent until after the defense presents its case.

''I want total open-mindedness on the part of this jury, because you have not heard all the evidence, because the defense is going to present evidence,'' he said.

Attorneys have not made public which, if any of the defendants, will be called to the witness stand.

Edwards has said previously that he will testify so that he can tell his side of the story.

Federal prosecutors accuse him of masterminding a series of schemes to manipulate the way the state awards riverboat casino licenses. Also charged are Edwards' son Stephen, state Sen. Greg Tarver, gambling board member Ecotry Fuller, and three others.

The schemes allegedly began before Edwards began his fourth and final term as governor in 1992, and continued after he left office in 1996.

The trial began Jan. 10. After three weeks of jury selection, slowed because of Edwards' bout with the flu and a short hospital stay, opening statements began Jan. 27.

Since then, prosecutors have called witnesses who sought casino licenses, workers in gambling-related businesses, state police financial and experts and scores of FBI agents.

The government's case peaked earlier this week when they called their star witness, Edward J. DeBartolo Jr. He was the only one to testify that Edwards himself demanded and got money. DeBartolo claims Edwards said $400,000 cash was needed to make sure there were no problems with his application.

Most of Thursday's testimony was about an April 1997 trip which Edwards, his wife, Candy, and his brother Marion took to Aruba.

On a conversation taped after that trip, Edwards is heard telling Stephen Edwards that he had netted $85,000 gambling in Aruba and Atlantic City. He said that he won $220,000 in Atlantic City, but lost a lot in Aruba.

Two bank employees testified that Edwards deposited $200,000 in his accounts in late April, shortly after the trip.

Prosecutors also read into the record Fuller's grand jury testimony. Fuller told federal prosecutors that he had one discussion with Tarver before the gambling board gave DeBartolo the license. That discussion was about only the date of the vote, Tarver said.

Fuller also told gave prosecutors a copy of a state police report on the five riverboat casino applicants. Fuller said he had to call the gambling board office to ask for a second copy because he did not know what prosecutors wanted when they subpoenaed the document.

''I just didn't know what I was looking for,'' Fuller said.


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