Edward DeBartolo, the former owner of the San Francisco 49ers, has been pardoned by President Donald Trump.
DeBartolo had been convicted of fraud in a gambling scandal in 1998 involving former Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards. DeBartolo avoided prison for his role in the scheme and was sentenced to probation, with a fine of $250,000, $350,000 in restitution and $400,000 in forfeiture.
Following his conviction, DeBartolo had been forced to hand over the keys to the 49ers to his sister, Denise York. During his tenure as the team’s owner, the 49ers won five Super Bowls.
Upon Hearing of DeBartolo’s Pardoning, Jerry Rice Said the Former Owner Was ‘the Main Reason We Won So Many Super Bowls’
DeBartolo’s pardon was announced by the Deputy Assistant to the President & Principal Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley on the White House’s North Lawn on the morning of February 18. Also present, were NFL Hall of Famers, Jerry Rice, Charles Haley, Ronnie Lott as well as Jim Brown. Haley said of DeBartolo, “We all make mistakes. I know what he’s done… for the kids.”
While Rice said, “He’s the main reason why we won so many Super Bowls. So today is a great day for him. I’m glad to be here and be a part of that. It’s just something I will never forget. This man, he has done so much in the community, has done so much in NFL football.”
DeBartolo Paid $400,000 to the Former Governor of Louisiana in Order to Secure a Casino License
In 1998, DeBartolo pleaded guilty to failing to report a felony when he paid $400,000 to Governor Edwards, who left office in 1992, in order to secure a riverboat gambling notice. The San Francisco Chronicle reported at the time that DeBartolo alleged in court that he had been victimized by Governor Edwards, who was a long-time friend of the DeBartolo family. DeBartolo dropped out of the riverboat casino plan after he received a grand jury subpoena.
DeBartolo Previously Described His Trial as a ‘Little piece of Hell’
The Chronicle quoted DeBartolo as describing his experience in court as a “little piece of hell” and adding, “I am just very grateful we’re in the position we are now.”
During the trial, DeBartolo said that during a meeting in a hotel restaurant in 1997, Governor Edwards slid a piece of paper with “400,000” written on it. DeBartolo said that the governor then told him, “This has to be taken care of by next week or there is going to be a serious problem with your license.” DeBartolo responded by saying, “I’ll take care of it.” DeBartolo said of Edwards, “The man could do as much harm as he could do good. That’s a threat if you read between the lines.”
Later, when DeBartolo handed the money over to Edwards inside of deli close to San Francisco International Airport, the 49ers owner asked how the money would be gotten through airport security. DeBartolo said the governor lifted up his shirt to reveal a money belt around his chest.