Local Politics

Sources: Edwards considering plea deal

Posted May 26, 2011

Map Marker  Find News Near Me

— Former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards is considering a plea deal to conclude a two-year investigation into possible campaign finance violations, sources tell WRAL News.

The case has been under review by the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., in recent months, and officials recently signed off on prosecuting Edwards. WRAL News has learned the case will likely go to the federal grand jury early next week, and an indictment could come by late next week.

The investigation appears to have zeroed in on money from a 100-year-old campaign supporter and attempts to hide Edwards' affair with a campaign staffer.

Former Edwards aide Andrew Young wrote in his tell-all book, "The Politician," that heiress Rachel "Bunny" Mellon gave Edwards a total of $700,000 as a gift. The so-called "Bunny money" helped fund the cover-up of Edwards' affair with video producer Rielle Hunter, who was pregnant with the former U.S. senator's child during the 2008 presidential campaign.

Political observers have said the money was a campaign contribution and should have been noted in Edwards' campaign finance reports.

There are also questions about millions of dollars from Mellon that went to The Alliance for a New America, a nonprofit that supported Edwards' candidacy. Money from the nonprofit was paid to a consultant agency that no longer exists.

Young told WRAL News in a 2010 interview that Edwards' campaign finance chairman, wealthy Texas lawyer Fred Baron, also financed flights and paid rent on a California home for Hunter and Young's family during the period when Young pretended to be the father of Hunter's baby.

Baron died from cancer in 2008, but his widow appeared before the federal grand jury in Raleigh in January. Investigators have interviewed Mellon twice at her estate in Virginia, and some of her family members testified before the grand jury in December.

Sources: Edwards considering plea deal

Former federal prosecutor Dan Boyce said Thursday that the U.S. attorney could use direct or circumstantial evidence to make a conspiracy case.

"They could show a sequence of events to prove knowledge," Boyce said.

Edwards declined to comment about the case on Tuesday. Two years ago, he released a statement through his Raleigh attorney to say that he was confident no funds from his campaign were used improperly.

Greg Craig, a Washington, D.C., attorney representing Edwards, issued a statement Wednesday indicating that the former candidate would fight any criminal charges.

"John Edwards has done wrong in his life – and he knows it better than anyone – but he did not break the law," said Craig, a former White House counsel. "The government's theory is wrong on the facts and wrong on the law."

Politico, a national political blog, quoted unidentified sources who said other members of Edwards' legal team were advising him to accept a plea deal.

"It's a lot easier to give advice than receive advice for a lawyer," Boyce said. "When you're in the hot seat trying to make the decisions for your own life (and) your own career, it's a lot more difficult."

Boyce said it's hard to predict whether the plea offer includes prison time, noting that it ultimately is a judge's call.

"It's possible it might not be an active sentence, but in this kind of high-profile case, I would say active time is definitely on the table," he said.

14 Comments

This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • HotChocolate Jun 2, 2011

    One day Senator Edwards will be able to sit back and weigh out his situation. in one hand a loving, intelligent wife, and a beautiful family, who could possibly been living in the White House. in the other reille. senator that must have been one of those straight tequila weeks.

  • sunshine1040 May 31, 2011

    What did Edwards do as our Senator? He did the same thing other former Senators did. he started running a presidental campaign. Probably never read a bill that was proposed by himself. Oh yes he slept with a woman that was not his wife but since he was not in NC at the time it was not against NC law

  • rfred16 May 31, 2011

    "best senator we ever had" and "greatest president, even greater than the mighty Bill Clinton"...haha....I want what you are smoking....Edwards did nothing as a senator, absolutely nothing. As far as presidents go, I'll give Clinton credit for coming to the middle during the Republican sweep of Congress going into his second term,and basically agreeing with the Welfare Reform/Government downsizing that he signed into law (once Congress presented it to him). However, the "mighty Bill Clinton" ranks well below other presidents in the "greatest" category. Most presidential historian/polls have Reagan and about 10-12 others ranked ahead of Clinton.

  • westernwake1 May 26, 2011

    Senator Edwards office was totally unresponsive - even to large corporations. As senator he ranked as "least responsive" of all 100 senators. How can anyone make a case that he was the "best senator we ever had".

    For his crimes - he deserves a prison term with a felony sentence. Howeve the pleas deal will probably make it a non-felony sentence with no prison time.

  • Keepin_it_real_in_NC May 26, 2011

    "He was the best senator we ever had.'

    Exactly what did Edwards do as a Senator?

  • whatusay May 26, 2011

    Typical democrat....speak words that people want to hear, then do the opposite. Got you again....

  • injameswetrust2003 May 26, 2011

    Can we trust anything this guy says? He stared straight into a TV camera and told America he wasn't the father of his mistress' baby. I agree with the other posters- put him in a blue collar jail with other common criminals.

  • Keyboard Toughy May 26, 2011

    Wow!!! Where are the liberals at? You were all in full force on the Arnie story.

  • justiceforall May 26, 2011

    Plea deal? Sorry, yeah I did it, oh well, no prison. Life goes on. Lock him up and throw away the key for lying under oath.

  • Southern Girl May 26, 2011

    In my opinion, prison is the place for him. God Bless Elizabeth - may she rest in peace.

More...