Will Edwards Corruption Trial Be Model for Cianci Case? (posted May 10, 2000)

The conviction yesterday of Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards on racketeering, conspiracy and extortion charges related to riverboat casino licenses may be a model for how the U.S. Attorney's office plans to proceed against Providence Mayor Buddy Cianci. According to sources familiar with Operation Plunderdome, federal authorities have been following the Edwards case with great interest as a model of how to win a major corruption case against a leading political figure.

In Edwards case, federal investigators used racketeering and conspiracy laws to make the argument that there was a systematic pattern of criminal activity with Governor Edwards at the head of the enterprise. Frequently used against organized crime figures, this prosecutorial approach allows prosecutors to knit together seemingly disparate details into a pattern of criminal activity. In Cianci's case, prosecutors may take information from campaign finance records, tax office decisions, and school leases to argue there was systematic criminal activity orchestrated by the Mayor.

The Edwards conviction is noteworthy because it is the first time in three trials against the Governor that prosecutors won a conviction. Much of the evidence presented during the trial was circumstantial in nature, and Edwards himself was never shown on audiotapes to have demanded kickbacks. However, testimony from associates persuaded jurors that laws had been violated. In two previous criminal trials, Edwards was found not guilty.