In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Colorful Ex-Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards Co-Stars On Reality TV Drama

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AP Photo / Kerry Maloney

The Edwards family is ripe for a reality TV drama. Edwards met Trina -- a woman 50 years his junior -- while in prison after Trina started sending him letters and visiting him there (Edwards had retired by then). Trina (née Scott), a 34-year-old Republican, bought Edwin Edwards: An Authorized Biography when it was published in 2009. She wrote to the former governor and started a snail mail correspondence. She has two sons from a previous marriage and graduated from Louisiana State University-Alexandria in December 2010 with a degree in psychology. According to the Advocate, she planned to attend law school in fall 2011.

Edwards, 86, still has a few friends back home, even after jail time. The former governor had divorced his second wife and was serving out a ten-year sentence after federal investigators successfully indicted him and, in 2001, a jury convicted him of extorting roughly $3 million from companies that were applying for casino licenses during his last term in office (he served eight of the ten years he was sentenced). He served as governor for four terms after previously serving as a city councilman in Crowley, Louisiana in 1954, then the state legislature, and then in Congress. He was known as a big populist, gambler, astute politician and favorite target of federal authorities.

Throughout his career, Edwards was an outspoken politician. After being asked by a reporter about whether he had anything in common with Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke when Duke ran for governor in 1991, Edwards said that the "only thing we have in common is we're both wizards under the sheets." Ideal for the type of show Edwards will costar.

But the lasting memory of Edwards in political history is largely one of the corruption scandal and indictment that eventually sent him behind bars. Edwards had always been rumored to be a somewhat corrupt politician and part of that is because Edwards was a target or one of the targets of numerous investigations. Once Edwards joked that he could only lose an election if he was found "in bed with a dead girl or a live boy."

The scandal that eventually brought Edwards down (he was tried in the 1980s twice but never convicted) centered on him extorting nearly $3 million from companies applying for casino riverboat licenses. The investigation into that scandal lasted two years and eventually also included Edwards's son, Stephen, and four other business associates. Edwards was extensively monitored and recorded throughout the investigation. In Bad Bet On The Bayou: The Rise Of Gambling in Louisiana And The Fall of Governor Edwin Edwards, author Tyler Bridges notes that federal investigators looking into one scheme of Edwards' "shady" business dealings uncovered an additional one and added to the case against him.

"This one involved apparent payoffs from the Players casino in Lake Charles to Edwards and Stephen," Bridges wrote in his book. "The boat had gotten its preliminary certificate in 1993 from Edwards's riverboat board. The go-between in this deal was Ricky Shetler, the owner of a Lake Charles pizzeria and Stephen's closest friend."

The then-owner of the San Francisco 49ers, Eddie DeBartolo Jr., also became embroiled in Edwards's casino dealings. According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune DeBartolo "decided his business empire wouldn't be complete without a casino in Shreveport," the newspaper reported. "DeBartolo pleaded guilty and testified for the prosecution that he paid Edwards $400,000 in cash." DeBartolo was able to dodge going to jail but lost his football team in the process.

In a farcical twist, prosecutors also accused Edwards of paying a man thousands of dollars to wiretap the FBI agents investigating the riverboat case, according to a 1998 New York Times report.

Edwards has consistently maintained his innocence in the case, even unsuccessfully appealing to George W. Bush for a presidential pardon in 2001, according to CNN. In a recent interview with Larry King at Louisiana State University, Edwards cited the argument he made in Leo Honeycutt's 2009 biography of him. Edwards says there were some "irregularities" related to his investigation and indictment.

Edwards also looks on the bright side about his time in prison. "They sent me to prison for life and I came out with a good-looking wife," Edwards told King. And now he has a TV show too.

About The Author

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Daniel Strauss is a reporter for Talking Points Memo. He was previously a breaking news reporter for The Hill newspaper and has written for Politico, Roll Call, The American Prospect, and Gaper's Block. He has also interned at Democracy: A Journal of Ideas and The New Yorker. Daniel grew up in Chicago and graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.A. in History. At Michigan he helped edit Consider, a weekly opinion magazine. He can be reached at daniel@talkingpointsmemo.com.