Judge allows campaign case against Edwards to proceed
Posted October 27, 2011
Greensboro, N.C. — A federal judge on Thursday denied several defense motions calling for the dismissal of campaign finance charges against two-time Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards.
Edwards is scheduled to be tried in January on charges that he asked two wealthy campaign donors to provide nearly $1 million in secret payments used to hide his pregnant mistress as he sought the Democratic Party's nomination for the White House in 2007 and early 2008.
"What's important now is that I now get my day in court. After all these years, I finally get my day in court, and people get to hear my side of this and what actually happened," Edwards said as he left the federal courthouse in Greensboro.
"What I know with complete and absolute certainty is I didn't violate campaign laws, and I never for a second believed I was violating campaign laws," he said.
Edwards' lawyers argued all day Wednesday and again Thursday morning that federal law doesn't define a campaign contribution as money "provided by a third party to another third party" that never went through a campaign account.
They also argued that the former U.S. senator was targeted by former U.S. Attorney George Holding, a Republican appointee who contributed to the campaigns of Edwards' opponents and whose mentor was blocked from a federal judgeship by Edwards.
Edwards' national campaign finance chairman, wealthy Texas lawyer Fred Baron, and millionaire socialite Rachel "Bunny Mellon" supplied checks, cash and private jets to move Rielle Hunter, who was pregnant with Edwards' child, across the country to hide her from the media. Both Baron and Mellon had already given the campaign the maximum $2,300 individual contribution allowed by law.
Much of the undisclosed money was funneled to Andrew Young, a close aide to Edwards who left the campaign and falsely claimed paternity of the senator's illegitimate child. Young and his wife invited the pregnant Hunter to live in their home near Chapel Hill and later traveled with her as tabloid reporters sought to expose the candidate's extramarital affair.
Prosecutors countered that Edwards knew about the money and that he personally directed its use to support Hunter. He was not a cheating husband trying to hide his affair from his wife, they argued, but a public figure who had built his reputation as a family man desperate to keep his campaign from blowing up.
U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles said she had concerns about some of the government's arguments, such as the fact that the money never went through Edwards' campaign and the fact that some of it was paid after he dropped out of the 2008 race. Still, she said, it would be better to address those concerns during a trial, when all of the evidence is laid out.
"She said, 'I'm going to kick that can down the road, but that can has some dents in it,'" said Abbe Lowell, Edwards' lead attorney.
Prosecutors declined to comment after the court hearing.
Lowell expressed confidence that a jury would be convinced that Edwards didn't break any laws.
"We know what the facts are," he said. "When that evidence comes out, it's not going to be that they can change (the facts), and when that happens, we expect we will prevail."