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Former official called - Ex-ethics panelist linked to Edwards, probe target

Author(s): CHRISTOPHER BAUGHMAN

WILLIAM PACK Date: October 14, 1998 Section: NEWS

A former state ethics board member put Edwin Edwards in touch with the man now accused of conspiring with the former governor to wiretap federal agents, a lawyer in the case said Tuesday. Gary Goss, a Baton Rouge businessman named by Edwards in 1987 to serve on the now-defunct Commission on Ethics for Public Employees, put Dempsey White in touch with Edwards, Goss1 lawyer said.

"Being a friend of both, he put the two together," attorney Tommy Damico said.

Prosecutors claim White conspired with Edwards, his son Stephen Edwards and others to bug the home telephones of two FBI agents and federal prosecutors investigating riverboat gambling.

White, a former highway department official, went to Goss in an attempt to get in touch with Edwards, Damico said.

On Tuesday, Edwards said While was trying to reach him because a man who turned out to be a federal informant was claiming to have information that would help Edwards fight the government's case against him.

Goss is identified as "another individual" in the FBI affidavit filed in White's arrest, Damico said.

In the affidavit, the FBI says that individual met with Edwards, White and the informant to talk about wiretapping techniques.

Goss was subpoenaed by the federal grand jury conducting the Edwards' probe, Damico said.

Damico stressed that Goss is not a subject or target of the investigation.

"lie's certainly not involved in anything at any level that would make anyone think he's anything but a witness," Damico said. "My client has committed no wrongdoing."

Edwards appointed Goss, the owner of Industrial Fabrics Inc. of Baton Rouge, to the old ethics commission in 1987,

When Edwards left office in 1988, Goss served on the commission under former Gov. Buddy Roemer.

Goss was reappointed to the board in 1993 during Edwards' last term in office. Goss was to serve until 1997, but left when a new state Ethics Board was founded in 1906.

The informant said the tapes were illegally made, Edwards said.

No such tapes were ever delivered, hut the informant did play tapes of a cellular telephone conversation between an FBI agent and another man, Edwards said. That tape was clearly made with the consent of the people being recorded, Edwards said.

He said he realized that the tape was staged and the informant was either trying to set him up or was engaged in some other improprieties.

"1 didn't want to have any part of either deal," Edwards said.

He said he quit meeting with the informant after listening to the tape at the man's Kiln, Miss., home this summer.

Edwards claims the government tried to entrap him, which he said shows prosecutors aren't confident about their case against him.

Edwards said the informant was a longtime friend of White's.

The informant said he had access to tapes of Edwards' telephone conversations that were recorded without court authorization, Edwards said.

Edwards said he was interested in the tapes because he saw them as evidence of investigative misconduct. Edwards said he never saw the tapes.

"I kept saying, 'Where are the tapes? ' I le kept hustling me for money," Edwards said.

Edwards said the man contended that part of his job "was to do illegal wiretaps for the FBI."

The man produced a contract with the FBI indicating the government was paying him $3,000 a month, but said the FBI had exposed him to danger and "he was unhappy with them," Edwards said.

Edwards said the informant "intimated" that he was the one who had illegally tapped Edwards' phone, but never clearly said so.

The FBI's affidavit against White said the Edwardses met with the informant in July to listen to tapes the informant had purportedly made of FBI conversations. That meeting was consensually recorded by both audio and video methods, the affidavit said.

At the meeting, Edwards was recorded as saying he was interested in what a key FBI agent thought and believed about the investigation.

"I am more interested in what they know because I know what I know," Edwards said on tape. "1 am more interested in what they know more than anything else."

On Tuesday, Edwards acknowledged he was curious about what

Edwards said he did not ask the informant to commit a crime to acquire information.

The affidavit in the wiretapping case also says Edwards' wife accompanied him to the informant's house more than a year ago to look at security equipment.

Edwards said his wife, Candy, sat in the car during the meeting and had no contact with the informant.

"There is no concern about Candy," Edwards said.

U.S. Attorney Eddie Jordan Jr. of New Orleans, whose office is in charge of the investigation, had no comment on Edwards' claims.

On Tuesday, White's attorney, Provino "Vinny" Mosca, said he planned to keep meeting with prosecutors to try to work out a plea agreement in the wiretapping case.

"If there's an agreement that can be worked out, it's my intention to work it out by Friday," Mosca said.

I le said he wants to make a deal with prosecutors before indictments are issued against the Edwardses.

Neither Edwin nor Stephen Edwards has been charged with a crime in the alleged wiretapping scheme.

Both are targets of the broader federal investigation into the licensing of riverboat casinos, which could lead to an indictment in the coming days, federal prosecutors have said.

Copyright 1998 Capital City Press, Baton Rouge, La.

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