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. Brian

    @Norm Ah the good old Freddie and Fannie fantasy. It couldn't be because unregulated Lehman Brothers, the largest US bankruptcy in history with over 600 billion in assets, decided to leverage over 30 to 1 could it? Blaming the lender is only half the story if not less - those who buy and moved the mortgages around are to blame just as much. Housing was going to downturn no matter what and only an idiot would leverage so much that a 3-5% downturn in housing would make them go bankrupt. Make no mistake; even if Freddie and Fannie didn't loan, Lehman would have bought up every single mortgage it could at 30 to 1 or even more. The recession would have been smaller and shorter but it would still have been devastating. We all know Lehman brothers started the domino effect.

    May 25, 2011 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  2. Chinese guy to the Chinese guy

    Then where is the weapon-of-mass destruction?

    May 25, 2011 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  3. Kathy B.

    I don't care about his politics or his personal life. I'm sick and tired of our politicians thinking they are little Princes. Prosecute him; punish him; scare the crap out of the other politicians. Of all parties and persuasions. We can do it – U.S. citizens end up getting what is important to them.

    May 25, 2011 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  4. Pandora

    Arnold, Edward, et. al., Why do you keep calling what they did (unable to keep it zipped) a mistake? A mistake is pressing the gas pedal instead of the brake. oh, sorry, I unzipped it and the mistake is calling me daddy.

    May 25, 2011 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  5. Name

    What an idiot? Who's going to use his law firm??

    May 25, 2011 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  6. Tony

    He should just get this chapter over in his life, do a few months in Club Fed, pay some fines & walk away with the rest of his family in tact... Then, if president Obama wants to pardon him before leaving office, he could do that. I don't think they would be that hard on him considering how much damage has already been done to his family & his ex-wife's humiliation before her death... pretty sad.

    May 25, 2011 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  7. Steve

    Now we know what Clinton's future would have been had he lost in 1992.

    May 25, 2011 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  8. Martha

    @ Rocco – he cheated on his wife, had a baby out of wedlock, tried to cover it up with $, lied to his children, friends, family, constituents and the US – and you don't think he's a horrible person? Sad.

    May 25, 2011 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  9. Sniffit

    "Hey maybe the great annointed one will pardon him. "

    Like Bush granted clemency to Libby, who was his and Cheneybot's scapegoat for the outing of a CIA officer? You guys are ridiculous. Obama and Holder have given no indication that they play favorites on this kind of thing...notwithstanding the conservative-led Civil Rights Commission's farce of an "investigation" over the New Black Panther thing. Go cry to Issa if you'd like a kangaroo hearing on the subject.

    May 25, 2011 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  10. Anonymous

    To the Chinese Guy that made a comment May 25, 2011 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm...and you are an IDIOT and a FOOL...

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

    Edwards should have consulted with Newt
    on how to have safe protected sex with a mistress,
    before he crossed the line.

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

    Rocco, you may be right about looking at our lives too. But I feel that if you throw yourself in the American spot light, you need to know how people are. They will find the least bit of dirt on you and throw it in your face. This goes for athletes as well as stars and politicians. Its a shame, I am guilty of reading and posting bad stuff too, but sadly we are a culture that does this and will get worse due to the internet and chat rooms and forums such as this. The idea is if you want to be in the spot light, either have an extreamly clean background or realize you will have to own up to all you do and have done. You wanted to be looked up to, well, earn it. just my opinion.

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

    How sad...a man who had a very legitimate chance of being our president one day has amounted to this. Granted, Edwards brought this upon himself, but it's still one of those unfortunate "what almost was" stories. This tale of lost dreams reminds me of another man who very clearly would have become everyone's president some day...John-John. Though the circumstances are completely different...and to a much greater and heart-wrenching extent in Jr's case...the dreams America has lost in these individuals cuts very deeply. To this very day, I continue to feel a hole in my heart with the loss of Jr., the man who surely would have become a welcome king to us all, just as his father and uncles became. In the meantime, let's appreciate our current president is a genuine reflection of the admirable RFK and JFK.

    May 25, 2011 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  14. John K

    It's OK to commit a crime if sex is somehow involved. Bill Clinton and his followers taught me that (although Bill did end up losing his law license).

    May 25, 2011 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  15. the amen corner

    Yes, let he who is without sin cast the first stone. The shame here is all of the hate and venom coming across on these posts. We have become a nation of hateful people being manipulated by rich, hateful people who control the media, stop it. Its not about republicans and democrats, its about our collective souls. Even if Edwards does have to suffer the cosequence of his actions, let the rest of us try to be compassionate and loving people and not allow stuff like this to make us divisive and show our worst side.

    May 25, 2011 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  16. Barnacle Bill

    "The bankers didn't create 'a system', it was always there. The Dems on the other hand pushed Freddie/Fannie to underwrite all those loans when they shouldn't have."

    What a childlike mind you must possess. Like most conservatives, your simple mind is unable to draw conclusions from a broad set of facts.

    The bankers lobbied for those changes, because they needed a steady stream of new customers to make their balance sheets look more robust. That way the CEOs could bamboozle the shareholders into thinking they were actually doing a good job, when they were really just chasing secretaries around the desk and playing golf with their equally morally bankrupt buddies.

    The realtors lobbied for those changes so that they could inflate the market with ridiculous prices, and have a steady stream of customers they never would have had before.

    May 25, 2011 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  17. Butters

    Nobody knows for sure if the child is his or if he is guilty.. He seemed nice and caring during the campaign..

    May 25, 2011 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |

    "The Scarlet Letter" revisited!

    May 25, 2011 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  19. Dee Dee

    Democrats – KEEP those egos down and zippers up because no one will be able to distinguish you all from RePUBICans!

    May 25, 2011 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  20. Too Much For Me

    Wall street loses billions and the govt gives them money. Cocaine and reefer flow across the border at will.....And the best the JD can find to do is go after John Edwards! Man is this country Backa&&wards!

    May 25, 2011 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  21. Marjee123

    So Holder and the DOJ can go after and investigate John Edwards but they haven't even done one thing about Ensign and Coburn. Ensign's affair was his business, but when he made a pay off to his mistress's husband and got him a job illegally as a lobbyist he broke the law. And why is Coburn off the hook he negotiated a BRIBE to Ensign's mistress husband. He committed a felony yet no mention of this. I guess again since all the Bush crumbs were not thrown out of the justice department and the put Mr. Namby Pamby in charge nothing will ever be done to republicans who break the laws of the land.

    May 25, 2011 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  22. Eve

    Nevada Pearson – so if I rob a bank, I can just pay it back and no crime was committed? You are a genius!!

    May 25, 2011 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  23. Remoman

    If only John Edwards had been like Sarah Palin and quit half-way through, he wouldn't be such trouble.

    May 25, 2011 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  24. Too Much For Me

    Wall street loses billions and the govt gives them money. Drugs flow across the border at will.....And the best the JD can find to do is go after John Edwards! Man is this country Backwards

    May 25, 2011 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  25. Greg Gilbert

    I always feel different than most people when I see politicians getting "busted" There are too many laws and you can go after anyone and almost always find something. It takes having to have a lawyer to stay above it all and even then sometimes you don't make it. America land of the free! Ha!

    May 25, 2011 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
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