The defense rested its case today in the trial of former representative Otto E. Passman (D-La.) after three days of testimony that blended together Louisiana politics, world wide rice trade and the civic legacy of the 78-year-old former congressman.
The case is expected to go to the jury Sunday.
Passman, sniffling and drying tears from his eyes, stared intently at the witness as many of his friends took the stand in his defense.
The once-powerful congressman for over 20 years chaired the House Appropriations subcommittee that controlled U.S. foreign aid. Passman was indicted a year ago on charges of using his position on the subcommittee to pressure the U.S. and Koeran governments into rice sales beneficial to Tongsun Park, wealthy South korean businessman.
Park, the government charged, paid Passman more than $200,000 for his help. Passman also is accused of not paying federak income taxes on the alleged payoffs.
The defense has tried throughout the trial to show that Gov. Edwin Edwards played the key role in getting Passman involved in selling Louisiana's vast rice reserves beginning in 1970.
It was Edwards who, while a congressman in 1970, urged Passman to use his influence to sell Louisiana rice to Korea, a move that assisted his bid for the governorship.
During his 1971, campaign, Edwards testified Friday, he tried to make peace between Park and Passman because it was "important to the whole scheme of things to maintain working relations with Tongsun Park." Gov Edwards also testified Passman offered him a campaign contribution of $50,000 before Passman and Park ever were acquainted.
Edwards said he prevailed upon his brother, Marion, and his close friend Gordon Dore, "to be a buffer between Congressman Passman and Tongsun Park." Marion Edwards and Gordon Dore took the stand Friday as part of the defense strategy to portray Passman's helpful role in selling Louisana rice. At Edwards' instruction, both Marion Edwards and Dore traveled to Korea on many occasions to keep Passman company and to ensure Louisiana's interests were well served, according to testimony.
Marion Edwards, who described Passman as "his desrest friend on earth," said his brother wanted him "to get Congressman Passman to be cordial to Tongsun Park because Korea buys so much rice." Marion Edwards buys and sells Louisiana farmland, including rice acreage.
The defense elicited statements from the governor, Marion Edwards, his wife and Dore and Park had told them, after the Korean scandal broke, he had not contributed anything to Passman.
Marion Edwards testified that while in Hong Kong in 1977 Park told him, "I tried to give Congressman Passman money, but he would never take it. He refused it every time."
Camile F. Gravel Jr., Passman's attorney and the governor's political confidante and executive counsel, interspersed the defense's presentation with character witness and rice experts.
Character witnesses included 74-year-old Ralph Waldo Emerson Jones Jr., former president of Grambling University in northeast Louisiana; former Louisiana governor John McKeithen; and Passman's past congressional colleague, Joe Waggonner Jr. (D-La.).