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Judge Says Ex-Gov. Offered Bribe

September 21, 2000

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) _ A retired judge testifying in a fraud case against former Gov. Edwin Edwards rubbed his thumb against his fingers Thursday and quoted Edwards as saying: ``Do you want money?″

The alleged bribe offer by Edwards was re-enacted in the witness stand by Foster ``Foxy″ Sanders, who is testifying under a plea agreement with prosecutors.

``His eyes were glued to me. It’s like time stopped,″ Sanders said.

Edwards’ lawyer said Sanders made up the story in hopes of avoiding jail time.

On trial with Edwards is Insurance Commissioner Jim Brown and attorney Ronald Weems, all accused of helping the owner of a defunct insurance company create a sham financial settlement and trying to derail a proposed $27 million lawsuit related to its liquidation.

The conversation allegedly took place in Edwards’ car in 1996, when Sanders had close ties to the state office that liquidates defunct insurance companies. Sanders was key to the alleged sweetheart deal and was offered more than just money, prosecutors say.

A federal grand jury investigating bid rigging and other activities involving an unrelated insurance case sent a subpoena to the state receivership office, which was run by a Sanders appointee.

Edwards offered to intervene with federal prosecutors to clear Sanders, the retired judge testified.

Eventually, Sanders’ appointee in the receivership office, Robert Bourgeois, reached a settlement requiring Cascade Insurance Co. owner David Disiere to pay the state $2.5 million.

Sanders testified that he had thought $4.4 million was a more realistic figure. ``When he told me he settled it for $2.5 million, I thought that was low,″ Sanders said.

Sanders said he did nothing to intervene.

He testified that he believes Bourgeois settled for $2.5 million because he thought it might make life easier for Sanders by ending the grand jury investigation.

Edward’s attorney, Mike Small, made repeated references to the original charges Sanders faced in the case _ 43 criminal counts with a potential punishment of up to 230 years in prison and fines of $10.7 million.

Sanders’ plea to a single count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and witness tampering could result in no more than six months and $25,000 in fines, Small said.

Edwards, a colorful, 73-year-old four-term governor, is appealing his conviction in a separate federal corruption trial. He was convicted with four others on federal racketeering charges involving the licensing of state riverboat casinos.

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