Justice Department moving toward charges in Edwards case
May 25th, 2011
05:10 PM ET
12 years ago

Justice Department moving toward charges in Edwards case

Washington (CNN) – Following news that the Justice Department is moving towards a possible indictment of former presidential candidate and Sen.John Edwards, his defense attorney Wednesday asserted his client’s innocence and said a prosecution is unwarranted.

“John Edwards has done wrong in his life – and he knows it better than anyone – but he did not break the law,” attorney Greg Craig said in a statement late Wednesday.

Craig went on to attack the Justice Department’s handling of the case. “The government’s theory is wrong on the facts and wrong on the law. It is novel and untested. There is no civil or criminal precedent for such a prosecution.”

The Justice Department has authorized prosecutors to bring charges in the case which involves financial support given to Edwards’ mistress and whether there was a violation of campaign law, two sources familiar with the case told CNN.

An indictment could be averted if prosecutors and lawyers for Edwards reach a plea deal.

Edwards is now considering his options, one source with knowledge of the investigation told CNN.

The government wants Edwards to plead guilty to a felony, but he doesn't want to do that because he would lose his law license, a source close to the Edwards family told CNN. Edwards has talked to friends and associates about wanting to start a public interest law firm, and "doesn't want to lose his license, not to mention he is terrified of going to jail," the source added.

Since 2009, a federal grand jury in North Carolina has been investigating payments made to Rielle Hunter, Edwards' mistress, who worked as a videographer for his campaign. Edwards fathered an out of wedlock baby with Hunter while he was married. The grand jury has been investigating whether the payments should be considered un-reported campaign donations. Lawyers for Edwards have argued they should not be.

“The government originally investigated allegations that Senator Edwards’ campaign’s funds were misused but continued its pursuit even after finding that not one penny from the Edwards campaign was involved. The Justice Department has wasted millions of dollars and thousands of hours on a matter more appropriately a topic for the Federal Election Commission to consider, not a criminal court,” Craig said in his statement.

The Justice Department had no comment Wednesday on the Edwards probe.

Whatever the outcome, a resolution to the two year investigation by the government is expected "soon," the source with knowledge of the investigation said Wednesday.

Both sources refused to speak on the record because of the sensitivity of the matter.

The source close to the family describes Edwards' legal team as "solid people" who are trying to convince him to take a plea and get a better offer by suggesting the government's case isn't as strong as the federal prosecution team might think. The source said Edwards' defense lawyers hope to still sway the government to offer Edwards a better deal.

The Edwards legal team had hoped that the Justice Department would end up not pursuing charges.

Much of the government's case appears centered on a former aide. In his tell-all book "The Politician," former Edwards staffer Andrew Young wrote that heiress Rachel "Bunny" Mellon gave Edwards a gift of $700,000 that was used to cover-up the affair with Hunter, a video producer for the campaign who was pregnant with the former senator's child. Mellon's attorneys have previously said she thought she was just helping a friend, didn't know what the money was meant for and that she did nothing wrong.

Edwards declined to comment Tuesday to CNN affiliate WRAL-TV of Raleigh, North Carolina.

Young told WRAL in 2010 that Mellon did not know how her money was used, but said the money went toward flights and to pay rent for Hunter's California home while Young pretended to be the father of Hunter's child.

Edwards later admitted he fathered the child.

Edwards told ABC's Nightline in 2008 he never paid a dime to any of the people involved in the scandal and never asked any money to be paid to the those involved.

–CNN Chief National Correspondent John King contributed to this report

You can follow Kevin Bohn on Twitter @KevinBohnCNN

Updated 6:28 p.m.

Filed under: John Edwards • Rielle Hunter
soundoff (203 Responses)
  1. Rudy NYC

    Imagine the outcry if this Edwards investigation were dropped and not pursued. Listen for the outcry over the Ensign investigation not being dropped that is sure to come. If Republicans ran the Justice Department, then the Ensign case would certainly be dropped.

    May 25, 2011 08:12 am at 8:12 am |
  2. Chris

    And he was such a promising politician.. Like so many other fallen brothers before him, the "little head" did all thinking.... Sad for his young children.

    May 25, 2011 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  3. diridi

    very pathetic....I thought truly one day he becomes POTUS, what an idiot....I am glad, we have brainy president....Obama2012.....energy, energy, and energy.....wake up, America....enough damage done to the nation with OPEC......

    May 25, 2011 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  4. George Guadiane - Austerlitz, NY

    I'm a life long Democrat.

    If he committed a crime, prosecute him.

    May 25, 2011 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  5. Nevada Person

    Another waste of tax payers money, let it be. Its done, no crime was committed it was a personal matter. Let him return the money and every body moves on. Stop the wast of time people.

    May 25, 2011 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  6. Proud Worlverine

    Yes, I can see why scumbag John Kerry selected this fool for his running mate – bird's of a feather !

    May 25, 2011 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  7. thundarr72

    This is a gigantic waste of tax payer money!! John Edwards is a nobody - just a guy who couldn't keep it zipped. No further taxpayer money or Americans time should be wasted on this ZERO!!

    May 25, 2011 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  8. Larry L

    I believed in him. Get a rope...

    May 25, 2011 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  9. scranton

    This guy was a phony from the get go. A simple snake oil salesman that many people bought into, and Rudy put down your kool aid also. Nobody cares about Edwards, and the Republicans could care less either since he self destructed.

    May 25, 2011 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  10. Thomas

    Sad day to be from North Carolina...

    May 25, 2011 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  11. Lobbyistgrl

    This is definitely a reap what you sow example.

    May 25, 2011 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  12. Johan S

    If he can lie to and cheat on his wife, he can lie to and cheat on you the taxpayer.

    May 25, 2011 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  13. Android

    Oh MY! What a shock, another corrupt politician!

    May 25, 2011 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  14. JustMe

    I really believed in this guy and what he stood for (or what I thought he stood for) and thought he could be a really great President. Now he is most likely just going to be another felon. So disappointing and so sad for his children. They've already been through so much with the ongoing illness and death of their mother and now this. I'm assuming Cate will have custody of the two youngest, Jack and Emma Claire if this does indeed happen and I hope God will give her (well all of them really) the strength to make it through this.

    May 25, 2011 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  15. Chris

    Not at all suprising and I think more of these clowns should be outed for this type of behavior(not the affair).

    May 25, 2011 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  16. gt

    and this slime ball ran for president.... typical trail lawyer.. i hope he spends many a night in the slammer with cousin vinny or big john washington....lowest of the low...

    May 25, 2011 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  17. Kelly

    I get the idea of not wanting to spend money to prosecute him.. but if there's no consequence, there's no deterrent for others. You'd think good character or at least public humiliation would be enough; clearly it's not.

    May 25, 2011 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  18. BB

    You do the crime, you do the time. So very sad to think what would have happened if he had actually been elected – such a disgrace to everything he was a part of.

    May 25, 2011 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  19. M

    So let me get this straight.

    If bankers create a system of fraudulent investments that implodes and costs American and the world trillions of dollars as well as millions of jobs, GIVE THEM MONEY!!!

    If one guy uses a small amount of campaign money to cover up an affair, BY GOLLY, NAIL'EM TO THE WALL.

    Yep. We've got our proprieties straight.

    May 25, 2011 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  20. Tboy

    Thank god he wasn't the nominee in 2008. If Obama had not run for president, there would have been a good chance John Edwards would have been elected. He would have been impeached and would have to resign from office.

    May 25, 2011 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  21. DespiseCheatingHusbands

    John Edwards should be imprisoned for life. Elizabeth Edwards's soul rest in peace

    May 25, 2011 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  22. The Bodacious

    It seems in politics, the grass is never greener on the other side. Just varying shades of brown with lots of weeds.

    May 25, 2011 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  23. California Conservative

    Demcorat / republican if they broke the law prosecute.

    Lady justic is blind for a reason.

    May 25, 2011 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  24. Frank

    People of the United States of America and John Edwards.
    Have no fear,there is no way even if convicted will John Edwards see any and I mean any Jail Time.I am sure the Judge would put a huge fine and community service.I am sure his lawyer will channel Jesus to say what a great father and overall family man and how he has done great things for all his former legal clients. YADA...YADA....YADA.

    May 25, 2011 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  25. RealityCheck

    Don't let this distract you from the real criminals. Why is there not ONE indictment of any of the major players in the securitization charade that led to the collapse of this country's economy? Not ONE? Paying for the cover-up of infidelity is like a parking violation compared to the market manipulation and fraud perpetrated by Goldman and the like.

    May 25, 2011 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
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