- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 12, 2003

BATON ROUGE, La., Feb. 12 (UPI) — A congressman has written President Bush opposing a bid seeking clemency for imprisoned former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards.

Rep. David Vitter, R-La., says the 75-year-old Edwards should stay in federal prison where he is serving a 10-year sentence for shaking down riverboat casino operators. He began serving the sentence Oct. 21, 2002 at a prison in Fort Worth, Texas.

Vitter's action was prompted by a movement in Louisiana to free Edwards, a Democrat who served four terms as governor.

"I believe you should also hear from the myriad of Louisianians who feel he (Edwards) has caused us grievous harm by establishing a legacy of political corruption and cronyism," the congressman's letter states.

In a separate statement Tuesday Vitter encouraged those who agree with him to write the White House.

"I encourage anyone who is of the same mind, who feels that Mr. Edwards should serve his time in prison in punishment for the great harm he has done our state, to also write the president," he said.

In May 2000, a jury convicted Edwards, his son, Stephen, and three others on corruption charges in the riverboat licenseing scandal. The other three are also serving federal prison sentences.

Vitter told the president that he was opposed to any pardon, clemency, reduction of sentence or halfway detention for Edwards.

"Political corruption and cronyism is the greatest obstacle our state has faced in bettering the lives of our people" he said. "Edwin Edwards is the living embodiment of that obstacle. His criminal conviction is the greatest sign of hope and progress."

Edwards' lawyers had no immediate comment on Vitter's letter.

When Edwards turned himself at the Federal Medical Center in Fort Worth last October he told reporters at the gate that he was innocent.

"I did not do anything wrong as a governor, even if you accept the verdict as it is, it doesn't indicate that," he said, "And I like that clear."

The Bureau of Prisons assigned Edwards to the prison medical center because of heart problems. He will have to serve at least 8 years of the sentence even if he gets time off for good behavior.

Edwards, who was known for his folksy humor, high living and gambling, was a dominating force in Louisiana politics for nearly 30 years. He served two terms as governor from 1972-80, a third term from 1984-88, and a fourth from 1992-96. He had been acquitted twice before in federal prosecutions.


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