et al. Trial Edwin Edwards: 2000
Bribery Conspiracy Alleged
The FBI and the Justice Department alleged that former governor Edwards and his son Stephen, through their law practice in Baton Rouge, were at the center of a criminal conspiracy to extort bribes from applicants seeking gambling licenses. Playing on their supposed influence with the original Riverboat Gaming Commission and with the new gaming board, the two received attorney's fees and other payments from both successful and unsuccessful riverboat applicants. Stephen set up a company to sell merchandise to the casino operators as a channel for some of the payoffs. Cecil Brown, Andrew Martin, and Bobby Johnson were accused of serving as contact persons with the extortion victims, soliciting bribes. All three had served as aides or staff to Edwards when he had been governor.
Eddie DeBartolo, Jr., former owner of the National Football League's San Francisco Forty-Niners, and Robert Guidry, who owned the Treasure Chest Casino in Kenner, Louisiana, both explained how they had made large payoffs to win casino licenses. Guidry stated that he paid $1.5 million over the period 1996-1997 to the Edwards ring, while DeBartolo claimed he paid $400,000. The owner of The Belle of Baton Rouge Riverboat Casino, granted a license on July 18, 1994, agreed to cooperate with federal authorities in their investigation. The casino was jointly owned by Jazz Enterprises, Incorporated, and Argosy Gaming, Inc. Mark Bradley, vice president of Jazz, along with other principals and employees of the company, worked with the FBI, helping to record conversations with Edwards and his associates. Testimony indicated that another successful applicant for a license, Players Lake Charles, Incorporated, had also made pay-offs, through a friend of the Edwards, Richard Shelter.
Several unsuccessful applicant companies were also named in the indictment against Edwards. These included the Louisiana Riverboat Gaming Corporation (LRGC), the New Orleans River Corporation (NORC), and the Gretna Belle. The government alleged that funds were extorted from all of these unsuccessful applicants.
According to the indictment, Edwards and his associates obtained $350,000 in cash and an ownership interest in the two firms, LRGC and NORC. The cash and interest were extorted in exchange for support for their license applications, although both applications failed. The cash payments tracked through bank wire transfers were in the form of consulting fees to Cecil Brown.
Furthermore, the group extorted money from Jazz enterprises, Incorporated, and from Players. Working with Richard Shelter, Stephen Edwards demanded money from Players, from the Coushatta Indian Tribe, and from a third party in relation to the Players Casino. The Edwards group also extorted money from Robert Guidry in relation to the Treasure Chest Casino. Both Shelter, as go-between, and Guidry, as victim, gave evidence against the Edwards group.
The government's case was supported by explicit testimony from De-Bartolo, Guidry, and Shelter. Although each was apparently guilty of either giving or receiving bribes, all three were granted immunity in exchange for testimony against Edwards and his conspirators.