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. BarbaraSamburu

    throw this piece of dung in jail. but we all know that is not going to happen. His payback is yet to come.

    May 25, 2011 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  2. redickulous

    Edwards can go to hell and simmer in his own juices...

    May 25, 2011 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  3. ET

    The illegal activity would have been performed by the recipient of the money. Extortion is on the books and is against the law. Extramarital affairs are immoral, but not illegal. The only crime I see is extortion.

    May 25, 2011 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  4. JuleS

    I couldn't be happier to see this two-faced, two-timing low life get his ass hauled up before a grand jury and then, hopefully, put on trial for using public monies to carry on an affair while his wife suffered with cancer.

    No, Rocco, we don't expect perfection. Just some decorum and faithfulness to one's spouse, family, and responsibilities - just like the rest of us. Yes, politicians and other such "celebrities" are held to higher standards, but no one's making them run for office or perform, and THEY are the ones who make us all kinds of promises about how they're going to walk the straight and narrow, and make sure everyone else does the same. I won't excuse anyone whose "weakness" is cheating on his wife and on top of that, using MY tax dollars to try to cover it up.

    May 25, 2011 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  5. jim

    @Rocco Yes, life is hard and complicated for most of us. But we don't use that as an excuse for behaving like a rutting hog! You seem willing to forgive almost anything; makes me think you are one who knows more about despicable behavior than the rest of us.

    May 25, 2011 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  6. anobody

    The U.S. needs a fresh start, all upper tier government "leaders" need to be fired and a new set of business minded people need to be brought in. Seems all we ever hear about the current clowns is they lie cheat and steal with their fly open.

    May 25, 2011 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  7. winston1984

    Another ambulance chaser bites the dust. I laugh when I see liberal fools still driving around with Kerry/Edwards bumper stickers....

    May 25, 2011 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  8. Rudy NYC

    @ scranton
    This may come as a shock to you, but I feel that Edwards should be prosecuted. I suppose I should assume that you object to the same treatment for Ensign. The Ensign case just might discover some collateral damage.

    May 25, 2011 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  9. Greg

    The Barack Obama Justice Department is bringing charges against Edwards ???

    Where are their priorities ?

    Reopen the Rush Limbaugh drug case. Now.

    May 25, 2011 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  10. Litterboxrox

    Hmmm. Normally I hold personal-injury-attorneys-turned-politicians to a much higher standard than this.

    May 25, 2011 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  11. msmetz

    Rocco, while I don't have as much empathy for Edwards as you, you really made me think and you make extremely valid points. I am going to print out your post and read it often. And, anyone who disagrees with your logic is not truthful with themselves or others. Thanks!

    May 25, 2011 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  12. JohnCBarclow

    You think this is bad, just wait until they release the info on Obama. They're saving it for the election.

    May 25, 2011 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  13. Bob

    He's to scared to go to prison.. Will you go in his place?

    May 25, 2011 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  14. chris

    leave it to liberals to say taking illegal use of tax payer money isn't a crime. if edwards wants to save tax payer money now he should just confess and accept his punishment. liberal hypocrisy yet again.

    May 25, 2011 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  15. Rudy NYC

    Rocco wrote:
    You know, I'm loosing faith in humanity and not because of Edwards but everyone else. It's so easy for everyone to be so judgmental about everyone else. it seems we expect perfection from everyone else but ourselves.
    If you do the crime, then you do the time. If Edwards spent campaign donations on a mistress, then lied about it under oath, then those Americans who donated to his campaign deserve justice. Yeah, it's ugly. It happens.

    May 25, 2011 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  16. WhoKnewIt

    And I hope that Elizabeth is seeing this and saying "gottcha"!

    May 25, 2011 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  17. SnookieMcCain

    Chinese guy you really got a big dose of the Dubya kool-aid, it's evident in your statement below:

    "You may not have like George Bush as your president, but you have to admit that he is an honest and decent man."

    Honest and decent????? are you insane? Lying to the American citizens regarding all of those weapons of mass destruction, invading Iraq and killing hundreds of thousands of innocent women and children and you call that honesty and decency. About half of his appointees lost their jobs because of their dishonesty, the man was a disgrace.

    This guy might have paid for a cover-up with campaign funds or he may have paid for the cover-up with his own money, in America you're always consider innocent until proven guilty and if he is guilty at least a lot of innocent people didn't have to lose their life over it.

    May 25, 2011 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  18. Debbie

    There are things to remember, 1 He will have to answer to God for his indescretions 2 We are all human, we are not perfect 3 Now who gets hurt in it all. . . THE CHILDREN and they've lost their mother. He needs to be able to provide for his children.

    May 25, 2011 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  19. Recovering Republican

    Why is anyone pursuing criminal charges that will never be prosecuted? This case is going to open a whole bunch of devastating investigations on GOP hopefulls while only hurting a single Democrat whose 15 minutes are up. Hasn't the GOP learned anything from Tom Delay? Time for the GOP to begin acting as smart as they claim to be.

    May 25, 2011 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  20. No Politics

    What happened to his Ferrari ?? Is it going on auction ? He needs to pay his legal team soon .
    Hope others will learn to Zip their pants , they should invent a lock where the wife will keep the key . hahahha

    May 25, 2011 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  21. Rudy NYC

    RealityCheck wrote;
    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?
    That is easily explained. There has been one indictment and prosecution, Bernie Madoff. The difference is that Madoff stole from the rich, while financial institutions stole from the middle class.

    May 25, 2011 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  22. cissygirl

    He should confess to his religious leader, fess-up in a one time news conference, do the time, and then get a job with CNN as a political analyst.

    May 25, 2011 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  23. Eric

    What a tool. Source says Edwards is terrified of going to prison. Yeah, if he's so terrified, why'd he do anything wrong in the first place? Perhaps he thought his stature as a politician would let his deeds go unnoticed or get him off the hook? Nobody is above the law. Maybe we should go after *more* of our politicians and see if they have the same wussy fear of going to prison for their crimes.

    May 25, 2011 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  24. Barnacle Bill

    "The Dems on the other hand pushed Freddie/Fannie to underwrite all those loans when they shouldn't have"

    Wrong. The lenders pushed for that so they could show constant growth on their balance sheets, moron.

    May 25, 2011 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  25. Curtis

    Couldn't happen to a nicer guy, what a sleeze bag!

    May 25, 2011 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
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