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Jury Deadlocked On Governor; Acquits His Brother on Some Charges

December 17, 1985

NEW ORLEANS (AP) _ Despite a jury deadlock in his racketeering and fraud trial, Gov. Edwin Edwards says the acquittal of his brother on 41 of 50 counts is a sign ″we’re moving slowly but surely toward the ultimate good results.″

After jurors reported the deadlock and read the partial verdict, U.S. District Judge Marcel Livaudais sent them back to work to strive for a complete verdict. The jury ended its fifth day of deliberations about 5 p.m. Monday.

News of the deadlock and Marion Edwards’ partial acquittal came a few hours after Livaudais refused to remove a juror who touched off a furor Saturday when he flashed a thumbs-down sign to television cameras.

Clifford West made the gesture from a van taking him from the jurors’ hotel to the courthouse. Defense lawyers said the gesture was an illegal attempt to communicate with the public - a violation of court rules that keep jurors isolated during deliberations.

Livaudais rejected their arguments without comment.

Marion Edwards said he was very pleased with the partial acquittal, and the governor predicted full clearance on all counts.

″I feel elated ... I think we’re moving slowly but surely toward the ultimate good results,″ he said.

U.S. Attorney John Volz said he wasn’t worried about the partial acquittal and that the remaining charges constitute the most important part of his case.

″After days of deliberating, we are now at a point of deadlock, with no foreseeable progress,″ the jurors said in a mid-afternoon note to the judge signed by foreman James Naquin.

After the jury’s report, Livaudais noted the time and expense involved in the 13-week trial and urged jurors to strive to reach a verdict.

All five defendants in the case remain charged with conspiracy under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization act. In addition, the jury is working on eight counts of mail and wire fraud against Marion Edwards, 49 counts of mail and wire fraud against the governor, Ron Falgout and James Wyllie Jr., and three counts of mail fraud against Gus Mijalis.

In a February indictment, a grand jury accused the men of conspiring illegally to obtain state certification for hospital and nursing home projects in which they held interests. Five of the 16 projects were sold for about $10 million.

Edwards held part interest in four of them and made $2 million from the sale of that interest before he became governor in March 1984.

Marion Edwards held one-third interest in one project - Bayou River Medical Corp. of Luling - and sold that for more than $1 million after his brother took office. Charges on which the jury declared Marion innocent dealt with the certification or sale of projects other than Bayou River.

Volz said ″we would retry, no doubt,″ if the jury did not come up with a verdict.

Each RICO count carries up to 20 years in prison, a $25,000 fine and forfeiture of all property acquired in the criminal enterprise. Each mail and wire fraud count carries up to five years in prison and a $1,000 fine.