Louisiana Governor Says ‘Truckloads’ of Documents Haven’t Proved Wrongdoing
NEW ORLEANS (AP) _ Gov. Edwin Edwards, on the stand for a third day at his federal racketeering trial, denied again today that he had anything to do with promoting a state employee who shepherded state permits for projects owned by Edwards’ business associates.
Prosecutors charged that John Landry was promoted in March 1984 as part of a bribe to further an alleged $10 million scam involving the governor and seven others.
Edwards’ cross-examination by U.S. Attorney John Volz, a long-time adversary, continued the lively courtroom exchanges of the day before that drew warnings to spectators in the crowded courtroom from a U.S. marshal.
When Volz asked a particularly long question, Edwards said, ″You have a right to summarize at the end of the trial. Let’s have a question.″
Volz replied: ″Governor, if I kept my questions as long as your answers, we’d be here until Christmas.″
Edwards and seven others are charged with racketeering and fraud. Prosecutors say the men used their political clout to rig state certification for hospital and nursing home projects in which they held interests. They sold five of the projects to large corporations for about $10 million.
On the issue of Landry’s alleged bribe, Volz recalled testimony by codefendant Ronald Falgout that he had given Landry’s resume to Edwards’ executive secretary.
Edwards said he did not recall talking to Falgout about promoting Landry or accepting Landry’s resume.
″The significant thing is that the name John Landry didn’t ring a bell,″ Edwards said.
Sandra Robinson, the head of the state health department, already has testified that she made the decision to promote Landry on her own.
On Tuesday, when Volz began cross-examination, Edwards accused him of gathering truckloads of documents and witnesses for the 12-week-old trial in a futile effort to prove a non-existent crime.
″You have all the documents, all the witnesses, all the authority in the world,″ Edwards angrily told Volz. ″Produce somebody to contradict what I’ve said.″
Edwards said the state certification program for hospitals was a silly waste of time.
″Was it silly that you made almost $2 million off of it?″ Volz asked.
″No, it was smart,″ Edwards shot back.
″I’ll have to agree with that,″ Volz said.
Edwards has acknowledged making about $1.9 million on the sale of four projects in which he held stock, but insisted he got involved in those projects between the end of his second term in 1980 and the beginning of his third term in March 1984.
The governor has maintained that he made no money off of hospital or nursing home deals after he regained office, and denied approving any project on the basis of his relationship with the owners.
Exchanges between Edwards and Volz, who are known to dislike each other, often provoked laughter in the packed courtroom.
″There’s no personal animosity between us as far as you’re concerned?″ Volz asked the governor.
″Which way?″ Edwards replied. Spectators in the area reserved for defendants’ supporters laughed and applauded.
Volz, unruffled, repeated, ″There’s not really any personal animosity between us, is there, governor?″
″I’m under oath,″ Edwards responded.
The governor was questioned repeatedly about his gambling habits.
Prosecutors allege that Edwards’ debts to Nevada casinos during 1982, 1983 and 1984 were a possible motive for involvement in the alleged investment scheme.
Edwards said he always paid the debts with money he had earned and on which he’d paid taxes.
In questioning about his gambling by Edwards’ own attorneys on Monday, the governor testified that he usually lost more than he won in any given year, but nowhere near the $2 million suggested by prosecutors.
He said the $2 million figure arose because he often signed casino ″markers″ for friends and sometimes left casinos, even when winning, without paying his debts because he and his companions were pressed for time.
″It’s obvious you’re laying the foundation for a tax case which has nothing to do with this case,″ Edwards said as the two men argued over whether some of the governor’s winnings should have been included on his tax returns.
When asked by Volz Tuesday if he’d ever tried to stop gambling, Edwards said he never had to sell property or deprive his family to pay off debts, and added, ″It’s not an irresistible urge.″