State News

Jury selection begins in Edwards' campaign finance trial

Posted April 12, 2012

— After years of investigation, denials and delays, jury selection began Thursday for the criminal trial of former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards.

Edwards declined to comment as he arrived at the federal courthouse in Greensboro with his parents and elder daughter, Cate. Inside, he smiled when introduced to a group of about 100 potential jurors.

Edwards, a former U.S. senator from North Carolina, faces six criminal counts related to nearly $1 million in secret payments made by two campaign donors to help hide his pregnant mistress as he sought the White House in 2008.

"This is not a case about whether Mr. Edwards was a good husband or politician," U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles told the jury pool. "It's about whether he violated campaign finance laws."

Eagles emphasized the potential jurors' important role in the upcoming trial and ordered them not to tell anyone, even their families, that they had been called for the Edwards case.

She made them repeat after her, "The judge told me not to talk about my jury service."

Eagles also advised them to put out of their minds any media coverage they had seen and to ignore any legal dramas they might have seen on television, because such shows may incorrectly characterize the law or how a courtroom operates.

"You can watch Law & Order, Judge Judy, John Grisham; put it out of your mind. We are not here for entertainment," the judge said. "I will tell you what the law is."

The jurors were then ushered to other parts of the courthouse to fill out lengthy written questionnaires. Their answers will be used to begin the selection process. A second batch of 80 potential jurors followed the same process Thursday afternoon.

John Edwards arrives at court John Edwards arrives at federal courthouse

By next week, the large jury pool will be winnowed to 12 jurors and four alternates, who are expected to attend each day of the proceedings. Opening arguments are scheduled to begin April 23, and the trial is expected to last at least six weeks.

"There are many ways that on TV justice is not realistic," Eagles said. "One of those is that trials occur in an hour."

Most witnesses will be sequestered during the trial.

Eagles also put the crowd of reporters on notice, issuing a four-page order prohibiting them from speaking to any jurors and urging them not to make faces or nod or shake their heads during the trial, because that could distract or influence jurors.

Former Edwards aide Andrew Young is expected to be a key witness for the government. Payments from campaign finance chairman Fred Baron and heiress Rachel "Bunny" Mellon flowed through him to Edwards' mistress, campaign videographer Rielle Hunter.

Young initially claimed Hunter's baby was his, and he sheltered Hunter first in Chatham County and later in California during the early stages of the 2008 campaign. The money paid for private jets, luxury hotels and Hunter's medical care.

Following years of adamant public denials, Edwards acknowledged paternity of Hunter's daughter in 2010.

John Edwards case graphic Judge discusses trial process with potential Edwards jurors

Prosecutors also have granted Hunter legal immunity for her testimony, as long as she's truthful.

Young has written a tell-all book about the campaign and affair, "The Politician," and Edwards' lawyers have subpoenaed a Cary accountant seeking Young's financial records related to the book and a related movie deal.

The accountant, David Harris, is seeking to quash the subpoena. Eagles said she would address such motions next week.

A key question will be whether Edwards knew about the payments from Baron and Mellon. Both had already given the campaign the maximum $2,300 individual contribution allowed by federal law.

Baron has since died, and the 101-year-old Mellon is considered too fragile to travel to Greensboro to testify.

Edwards denies having known about the money, so prosecutors will try to prove he sought and directed the payments to cover up his affair, protect his public image as a "family man" and keep his presidential hopes viable.

If convicted, Edwards faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and as much as $1.5 million in fines.

51 Comments

This story is closed for comments. Comments on WRAL.com news stories are accepted and moderated between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Oldest First
View all
  • driverkid3 Apr 13, 6:09 p.m.

    He will walk on all of this, even after lying all these years. Reason he will walk? He's a democrat and a member of the good ole boy network, it just wouldn't be right to send him to prison. Y'all know that as well as I do.

  • weasel2 Apr 13, 2:54 p.m.

    Whers his big ear to ear grin NOW. Maybe he's sweating the Feds.

  • wildpig777 Apr 13, 9:43 a.m.

    EDWARDS KNOWS HIS BEST CHANCE AT FREEDOM IS A hung JURY--that's what he is aiming for- just remember the nc democratic party loved him..............

  • jdupree Apr 12, 6:49 p.m.

    Even a blind man can see he is GUILTY!!!!!!

  • Uhavenoclu Apr 12, 5:41 p.m.

    He made the baby before his wife knew she was dying of cancer . then when she found out he lied to her the person he vowed to lve and honor until death parted them. He also lied to the people that he wanted to vote for him. I wonder how many time he lied in court previously to win court cases.

    Who fed you all these lies???
    1---The baby made itself...The soul chose who the parents were going to be so they can help it grow and learn what it needs to learn.
    2---If you are dead...How do you get to heaven????????

    That is the problem people give up the power in themselves the moment they are born and rely on others to help them.

  • nowon_yuno Apr 12, 5:28 p.m.

    He needs to go to jail, real jail, PMITA jail, not rich white guy jail. No justice, no peace

  • nowon_yuno Apr 12, 5:26 p.m.

    "RUsh paid her to set him up! he was going to help us fix the greed in this country! its wrong what theyer doing to him."

    This is what liberals actually believe.

    I have to hand it to you libs, you stay loyal to the worst your party has to offer right to the end. Must be the collective reasoning that you are never responsible for your actions.I mean seriously, how can you even attempt to defend this guy?

  • Shine -On Apr 12, 4:58 p.m.

    Let's see 12.1 million in matching public funds, that he delayed for 4 yrs. w/o accrued indterest to the princile. Suddenly paid back 2.1 million this week before jury selection and court. 1/12th of what he took and used. Now he is using his children and a shield to stay out of jail - because they need a parent and he ia a single parent now. What a bottom feeder. Crook would be a compliment and only boost his ego.

  • sunshine1040 Apr 12, 4:27 p.m.

    He made the baby before his wife knew she was dying of cancer . then when she found out he lied to her the person he vowed to lve and honor until death parted them. He also lied to the people that he wanted to vote for him. I wonder how many time he lied in court previously to win court cases.

  • dollibug Apr 12, 4:07 p.m.

    +++++If we as a nation Honestly confronted the corruption in our Government, we couldn't build enough prisons. Is Edwards guilty...? Probably. I seem to recall that while Edwards was laundering Campaign Money, BUSH was committing War Crimes and the Banks were fleecing Americans with predatory loans....WAKE UP AMERICA.
    ss3510

    YEP....CORRUPTION AND COVER UP....and it seems like there a an awful lot in WAKE COUNTY....http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-736024...contact the NC GENERAL ASSEMBLY about what you have seen/heard/know.....I did just that....NOW let's just see IF these people are going to actually do something about it....OR are they just sitting there is get a PAYCHECK....(I vote for the PAYCHECK)....we, the voters, need to get out and VOTE these people OUT OF OFFICE....if they can not put a STOP TO THE CORRUPTION AND COVER UP....

More...