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Judge imposes gag order in former governor's racketeering trial

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Judge imposes gag order in former governor's racketeering trial 11/30/98 LOUISIANA--In mid-November, United States District Judge Frank Polozola in Baton…

Judge imposes gag order in former governor’s racketeering trial

11/30/98

LOUISIANA–In mid-November, United States District Judge Frank Polozola in Baton Rouge issued a sweeping gag order preventing former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards from speaking about the criminal case in which he is charged with racketeering, money laundering and other offenses. The order also applies to guards, secretaries, bailiffs and other people who work with the court, and gags “all potential witnesses” from speaking about the case.

The order prevents the gagged parties from talking to the media “from now until the final verdict” about the case. The order does allow the gagged parties to discuss what transpires in open court, but “without elaboration or any kind of characterization whatsoever.” Polozola stated the measure was needed “to ensure that all parties will have a fair and impartial trial.”

Polozola noted that he was following local court rules, which state that lawyers have a duty not to disseminate information concerning pending or imminent criminal litigation if it would “interfere with a fair trial or otherwise prejudice the due administration of justice,” and that in a “widely publicized or sensational case,” the court may issue a special order preventing parties and witnesses from releasing information which would interfere with a defendant’s right to a fair trial. The rules, however, do not address the gagging of potential witnesses.

On November 6, Edwards and five others were indicted on 28 counts of racketeering, money laundering and other offenses involving purported violations of the state’s riverboat casino licensing process. (United States v. Edwin Edwards)