Political News

Edwards' lawyers use multiple arguments in seeking dismissal of charges

Posted September 6, 2011
Updated September 7, 2011

— Lawyers for John Edwards asked a federal judge on Tuesday to throw out criminal charges against the former Democratic presidential candidate.

Edwards' defense team filed five motions saying that federal prosecutors violated his rights under several constitutional amendments.

The lawyers argue that the federal indictment against him was unconstitutionally vague and that the charges were pursued by a partisan prosecutor for political gain. They also contend that, even if all the facts alleged in the federal indictment were true, he still didn't commit a crime.

"The simplicity of the argument that says, 'Listen, even if I did everything you say I did, it's not a crime' is interesting," said Kieran Shanahan, a Raleigh lawyer and former federal prosecutor.

Edwards was charged in June with using more than $1 million in under-the-table payments from political supporters to hide his pregnant mistress Rielle Hunter during his 2008 run. He's also charged with helping to falsify campaign finance reports to cover up the payments.

Edwards has pleaded not guilty to six felony and misdemeanor counts. The trial is scheduled to start in October.

In their filing, defense lawyers for Edwards say he tried to hide his mistress not to preserve his political candidacy, but to keep his affair secret from his family.

"Mr. Edwards had a number of non-campaign-related, purely personal reasons to conceal his relationship with Ms. Hunter," the former candidate's layers say. "Like most men in his situation, he naturally wanted to shield his extramarital affair from public view to avoid hurting his wife and children and to protect his reputation."

Edwards' lawyers also contend that prosecutors misused their authority to pursue charges against Edwards and that they failed to screen the federal grand jury that issued the indictment.

"In this prosecution, a major figure in the Democratic Party had been brought down and, as it turns out, a Republican U.S. attorney with political ambitions of his own has used this high profile case to his personal benefit," they wrote.

Former U.S. Attorney George Holding, an appointee of President George W. Bush who initiated the investigation against Edwards, was replaced by President Obama shortly after the charges were filed. Within weeks of his resignation, Holding announced that he will challenge Democratic 13th District Congressman Brad Miller in 2012.

The defense also noted that Holding once worked for a judge whose nomination to the federal appellate bench was blocked by Edwards in the U.S. Senate. Also, Holding contributed money to Edwards' political opponents.

Holding said late Tuesday that even as a former prosecutor, he couldn't comment on the pending case.

"U.S. attorneys try their cases in court, not in the press," Holding said.

A message to the spokeswoman for current U.S. Attorney Thomas Walker hasn't been returned.

Shanahan said he sees nothing wrong with Holding's actions.

"I don't think just because you're the U.S. attorney (that) you give up your constitutional right to make campaign contributions and the like," he said.

Shanahan noted that the case had been approved by Obama administration officials. "I just don't think that's going to do very far."

Still, the Republican said the defense has raised several significant issues.

"The government is going to have its hands full, frankly, in responding to it," Shanahan said. "(That is) not to say the indictment lacks good basis, because I think it does, but it is a little bit on the outer edges of the existing law."

Edwards' lawyers also contend he had no fair warning that his actions might be considered illegal by elections regulators because no one has ever been previously charged in a similar case.

"By bringing this indictment, the government draws this court into uncharted territory in the difficult intersection between campaign finance regulation and the First Amendment," the lawyers say in a motion. "... In doing so, the government collapses any distinction between a person's candidacy and his private life."


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  • Axtel Sep 7, 2011

    obama will pardon him on the way out in 2012

  • whatusay Sep 7, 2011

    So, Edward's lawyer says this is unchartered territory because the money given to Edward's mistress from democrat campaign contribution has never been done before. Edwards' lawyers say campaign contributions "can" be used for anything associated with his private life, it doesn't have to be associated with his running for president....interesting. I always thought those contributions was for TV and radio ads, transportation to various campaign speeches, or maybe something associated with being elected. Now this lawyer says Edwards could build another room on his mansion, or buy a new SUV, or put in a swimming pool....or anything he wants as long as it applies to his personal life...or his being elected.

  • affirmativediversity Sep 7, 2011

    Is this his mug shot? Why don't you post his mug shot with any story just like you would for anyone else?

  • james27613 Sep 7, 2011

    Poor excuse, 'nobody got caught yet so I can do it first'.

    Govt claims he used $1MM of money that was not his to use.

    Edwards' lawyers also contend he had no fair warning that his actions might be considered illegal by elections regulators because no one has ever been previously charged in a similar case.

  • gunny462 Sep 7, 2011

    He'll get a slap on the wrist like everyother politician before him.

  • Southern Girl Sep 7, 2011

    THERE IT IS - that stupid picture - again. Please find another picture at least. Send him to jail and be done with it!

  • Way Right Sep 7, 2011

    Do not pass go...do not collect thousands of dollars....do not give the media something to harp on for months.....Send him to jail!

  • Wendellcatlover Sep 7, 2011

    Those poor children...they have no idea what he did to their mother. I'm sure of that. She had the class to keep that away from them. And we know he isn't going to fess up to doing anything wrong.

  • Bartmeister Sep 7, 2011

    High dollar lawyers sitting in a room figured out it doesn't hurt to ask. Whatta joke.

  • Shine -On Sep 7, 2011

    Well ain't it funny ....... Who would have thought he would have come up with such a fix for his dilema? It is funny enough that WITN had no comments the first 4 hrs. "Trick the Trickster" J. Edwards....... HA! (Go to Jail - Go Directly to Jail - Do not pass Go - Do not Collect $200.00..... Monopoly).