Edwin Edwards, the former four-term governor who spent decades in the public spotlight, filed paperwork in private Wednesday and quietly regained his freedom after nine years of confinement for a corruption conviction.
The 83-year-old Democrat completed six months of home detention and regular reporting to a Baton Rouge halfway house, one of his remaining requirements after being released from federal prison earlier this year.
Though known for his quips and a life lived in front of the TV cameras, Edwards announced the conclusion of his home incarceration modestly, by leaving a short voice-mail message with his biographer, Leo Honeycutt.
“I’m calling to tell you everything has been cleared. My halfway tour is over,” Edwards said of his release.
The phone message was later replayed for reporters who gathered outside the Ecumenical House, where the former governor checked in three times a week.
Edwards’ fiancée, Trina Grimes Scott, rejoiced in a Facebook posting at the news.
“FREE AT LAST... FREE AT LAST!!! IT’S OFFICIAL!!” Scott wrote. She later added of Edwards, “He’s wearing a big smile.”
Edwards served eight years in prison for a bribery and extortion scheme to rig riverboat casino licenses. He had been under home incarceration since January. His first trip without requiring a phone call for permission, according to Scott’s Facebook page, was to breakfast at a Cracker Barrel restaurant.
The end to his house arrest was understated, but the charismatic and popular Edwards doesn’t intend to fade into low-key retirement.
He plans to embark on a book tour, starting in Baton Rouge late next week. He’s in talks for a reality TV show.
He also is making plans for a third wedding to Scott, 50 years his junior.
And he’s having an 84th birthday party with hundreds of people in New Orleans’ French Quarter at month’s end.
Edwards remains popular in Louisiana, with well-wishers flooding his Facebook site with congratulations messages and bids for him to run again for office, though he’s not allowed to do so.
Edwards’ hasn’t responded to interview requests, saying he’ll talk to reporters at a news conference on July 30, before his birthday party.
Darla O’Connor, director of Ecumenical House, said Edwards needed to sign four pieces of paperwork Wednesday for his official release from the Bureau of Prisons — and from the three-times weekly reporting to the halfway house. The paperwork was brought to him, to avoid the media.
The former governor will remain under supervision for three years on probation.
He’ll need permission to leave the federal judicial district in Baton Rouge where he was convicted and where he recently bought a home in Gonzales.
He’ll have to report monthly to his probation officer. He can’t own a gun.
The populist dominated Louisiana politics for decades, but he can only re-enter the political scene as an adviser, commentator or supporter of another candidate. Because of his conviction, Edwards can’t make a bid for elected office until 15 years after his sentence completion unless he is pardoned.
His interest in politics hasn’t appeared to wane. While on home detention, he has worked as a consultant to the chairman of the Louisiana Democratic Party, he’s posted a few comments about politics on his Facebook site and he’s been spotted having lunch with elected officials.
Edwards won his first office in 1954, elected to the Crowley City Council. He later moved into the Legislature and Congress, before serving as governor for 16 years between 1972 and 1996.