State News

Judge orders documents released in Edwards sex tape case

Posted April 29, 2011 1:37 p.m. EDT
Updated April 29, 2011 6:26 p.m. EDT

— Former presidential candidate John Edwards will again be asked a series of questions he earlier refused to answer under oath, this time with a judge on hand to immediately rule what's fair or foul in the privacy lawsuit filed by his mistress.

The closed-door resumption of Edwards' deposition with Superior Court Judge Carl Fox present was reminiscent of another Southern politician forced to deal with questions about his sexual past – President Bill Clinton's deposition during the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

After a hearing Friday, Fox delayed a decision on whether all or parts of Edwards' deposition would be made public until the former North Carolina senator faces the additional questioning June 20.

"I'm a firm believer and have been for the entirety of my career of providing the press access, and the people access, to the courtroom. I recognize there are times when access may be limited for certain types of proceedings and certain types of testimony under specific conditions," Fox said after initially indicating he thought Edwards should face questions in public. "But generally speaking, to avoid suspicion and questions about the integrity of the court, it's important that they be open."

Edwards is the star witness in a privacy lawsuit his mistress Rielle Hunter filed against former Edwards campaign aide Andrew Young. Hunter contends Young improperly took from her sensitive materials, including a reputed sex tape showing Edwards. She wants the items returned to her.

Young said Hunter left them behind after leaving a hideout they shared while covering up Edwards' affair during the 2008 presidential campaign.

A federal grand jury that has been meeting in Raleigh for almost two years is trying to determine whether Edwards broke campaign finance laws in trying to cover up the affair and the daughter he had with Hunter.

Fox ordered unsealed a pair of documents showing Edwards' attorney asked Fox to block further questioning by Young's lawyers that "unreasonably annoy, embarrass, or oppress" the former senator.

The judge said he would decide after Edwards' deposition whether to make public other filings in the case.

Media outlets had asked Fox to open the case to more public scrutiny, including some details of Edwards' deposition. Another judge had ordered all involved in the lawsuit to keep Edwards' testimony private.

"This case is about events that had everything to do with the presidential campaign and how it came to be and how it came to cease," said Nathan Siegel, an attorney for the media.

"This is a privacy case brought on by Rielle Hunter to get her stuff back that was wrongfully taken from her," said attorney Allison van Laningham, who represents Hunter.

The media outlets were not seeking access to the videotape.

"There was a lot more material than that," Siegel said.

Hunter and Young had been able to fight their court battle in privacy far greater than allowed the average person, he argued.

"Motion after motion has been filed under seal. We think it's time to step back," he said. "This isn't just an ordinary privacy case."