Edwards' criminal case delayed to July
Posted June 21, 2011 5:49 a.m. EDT
Updated June 21, 2011 6:40 p.m. EDT
Greensboro, N.C. — A speedy resolution to John Edwards' legal troubles became less likely Tuesday when a federal judge postponed until July a conference with attorneys to schedule the former presidential candidate's criminal case.
U.S. District Judge Carlton Tilley said he wants an agreement first on which of the 300,000 documents will be released by prosecutors to defense lawyers and when that will happen before even thinking about scheduling a trial date.
"I encourage you to release everything," Tilley told prosecutors. "Let's get busy. Let's start turning stuff over."
Edwards accompanied his lawyers to the hearing, but apart from greeting reporters outside the building, he didn't speak or respond to questions about the case. One of his lawyers, James Cooney, also declined to comment.
Edwards pleaded not guilty this month to six felony charges related to money that went to hide Rielle Hunter, a videographer who followed his 2008 presidential campaign and later became his mistress and the mother of his child.
Federal prosecutors say Edwards accepted contributions far above the legal limit in order to hide his affair, and helped in trying to cover up the payments by filing false campaign finance reports.
Edwards has maintained that the contributions were gifts and didn't need to be reported.
It's not clear exactly what the thousands of documents contain, and Edwards' lawyers said they couldn't proceed until they knew what prosecutors will be using.
"We're kind of buying a pig in a poke to a certain extent when we're negotiating on this," Cooney said.
Also up in the air is a trial date. Prosecutors want it in October, while Edwards' lawyers want January. Tilley said it was too soon to think about that.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Higdon told the judge the lawyers are close to an agreement on the documents. But prosecutors want to make sure nothing happens that would "bother" their planned witnesses.
"Many of the witnesses are well-known individuals," Higdon said.
The next hearing is scheduled for the third week of July.