State News

Judge sets April trial for Edwards

Posted March 1, 2012 4:01 a.m. EST
Updated March 1, 2012 6:59 p.m. EST

— A federal judge on Thursday set an April 23 trial date for two-time Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, who is accused of using political donations to hide an affair during his 2008 campaign.

Edwards' trial was supposed to begin in late January, but U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles put it on hold after learning that the former U.S. senator was suffering from an irregular heartbeat.

Eagles said Thursday that his health has moved to a management stage. Edwards wasn't at the court hearing, and his lawyers declined to elaborate.

"The rest doesn't make any sense to say, and we appreciate everybody respecting his privacy," attorney Abbe Lowell said.

Jury selection for the trial is expected to begin April 12, and the trial is expected to last six weeks.

Lawyers argued Thursday about how things should be communicated to the jury, such as the difference between "accepted" and "received." They also argued over what five witnesses, including longtime Edwards aide Andrew Young, can say at the upcoming criminal trial.

Edwards' lawyers and prosecutors submitted court filings last month over anticipated testimony from Young about conversations he had with heiress Rachel "Bunny" Mellon and campaign finance chairman Fred Baron about money used to help hide Edwards' pregnant mistress.

Defense lawyers said Young's testimony would amount to hearsay, since Baron is dead and the 101-year-old Mellon is too frail to testify. Young is expected to be a key witness for the prosecution.

Eagles appears ready to allow the testimony, wrapping up the hearing by saying, "I think we're ready to go when these arguments come up at trial. Sounds like a lot of them will be admissible."