State News

Judge postpones Edwards testimony in sex tape case

Posted June 16, 2011 4:01 a.m. EDT
Updated June 16, 2011 2:35 p.m. EDT

— A Superior Court judge on Thursday indefinitely postponed a deposition of John Edwards in a civil case involving a purported sex tape, saying forcing the former Democratic presidential candidate to answer questions under oath could jeopardize his rights as a defendant in a federal criminal case.

Rielle Hunter filed suit last year against former Edwards campaign aide Andrew Young, alleging that he took from her sensitive materials, including a reputed sex tape showing her with 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 with Hunter during the 2008 presidential campaign.

A federal grand jury indicted Edwards on June 3 on four counts of violating federal campaign finance laws and one count each of criminal conspiracy and making a false statement. Prosecutors allege that he used campaign donations to hide the affair, but he maintains that he never broke any laws.

Edwards provided testimony in February in Hunter's lawsuit but refused to answer some questions that he says weren't related to the lawsuit.

Judge Carl Fox had ordered a June 20 deposition of Edwards that the judge would attend to rule on the relevancy of the questions posed by Young's attorneys, but Fox put the process on hold Thursday.

"While I would like this case to move along, things can happen to require a case to be delayed," the judge said.

Edwards filed a motion last week asking that deposition be postponed, saying answering questions by Young's attorneys would violate his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. Young is a key witness for the prosecution in the federal case.

"Requiring him to show up for a civil deposition creates possibility of discovery that's not permitted under federal law," said Edwards' attorney, Jim Cooney.

Cooney said the criminal trial would likely be held early next year.

Hunter plans to forge ahead with the suit without Edwards' testimony, said her attorney, Alan Duncan.

"Relevance is, in fact,l completely the issue. (The questions for Edwards) bear no relevance," Duncan said.

David Pishko, an attorney representing Young and his wife, said there might not be another chance to depose Edwards if he is convicted.

Fox agreed that "the difficulty in getting someone back from federal court" might preclude a deposition. Still, he said, Edwards' civil rights are paramount.

"(His testimony) could be used against him in a criminal trial where the stakes are very high," Fox said.

Hugh Stephens, an attorney representing several media outlets, asked Fox to allow public access to Edwards' previous deposition in the case. Fox ordered earlier that the testimony be sealed, and he declined to take up the issue again Thursday.