Prosecution Rests; Defense Asks For Dismissal
NEW ORLEANS (AP) _ Defense lawyers sought immediate acquittal for Gov. Edwin Edwards and four co-defendants after federal prosecutors rested their case in the governor’s racketeering retrial.
U.S. District Judge Marcel Livaudais today began hearing various defense motions, including one asking him to declare the defendants innocent on the grounds the prosecution failed to prove its case. First up was a request to strike key testimony by state employees from the record.
U.S. Attorney John Volz rested the prosecution Wednesday after 4 weeks, and defense attorneys were expected to take two weeks to present their side. The first trial, which ended with a hung jury Dec. 18, lasted 14 weeks.
For the retrial, Volz streamlined his case, dropping some witnesses along with evidence of the governor’s gambling. He said he was pleased with the presentation, while Edwards called the case weak.
″Where’s the proof? Where’s the evidence?″ Edwards said at a news conference Wednesday on the courthouse steps.
Edwards, his brother Marion and business associates Ron Falgout, James Wyllie Jr. and Gus Mijalis were charged with racketeering and fraud. Prosecutors contended the men used their political influence, before and after Edwards took office in March 1984, to obtain state certification for hospitals and nursing homes in which they held interests.
One of the defense motions asked the judge to dismiss charges against Edwards on the grounds prosecutors effectively held back evidence that could have helped the governor when they decided against calling John Landry to testify.
Landry, a state health department employee, was considered a key witness in the case. But in Edwards’ first trial, his testimony was hazy as to whether the alleged conspirators bribed him with a job promotion, as prosecutors contended.
Instead of calling Landry, prosecutors called several of his coworkers to testify about actions he allegedly took to help obtain state certificaton.
″It’s our belief that Landry would deny doing anything improper,″ Edwards’ lawyer, Mike Fawer, said Wednesday.
Fawer said he believed Volz knew Landry would contradict the other testimony, and he said Volz was under a legal obligation to let the defense team know that.
He said he subpoenaed Volz and his assistants to testify in a hearing Friday. Volz said he could not be compelled to testify and would not let his assistants do so.
Before resting their case, prosectutors showed videotapes of two 1984 news conferences in an attempt to show that Edwards concealed his partnership in hospital projejcts with Wyllie and Falgout.
In September 1984, he said he made about $1 million acting as a lawyer and consultant for Falgout on several hospital projects.
But in November 1984, Edwards said he made closer to $2 million on the projects and that he was a co-owner of the projects with Wyllie and Falgout before he took office.
Prosecutors argued Edwards rewarded Wyllie and Falgout for the $2 million share in the hospitals by ensuring approval of more of their projects once he became governor. Defense lawyers contend Edwards approved the projects because they were badly needed.