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. marianne

    It's one thing to cheat but totally another if you cheat while your spouse is fighting cancer. Such a low life! Let him pay!

    May 25, 2011 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  2. Doug B.

    I'm confused as to how this is illegal for him to let someone pay a person money for his child. I don't see how they can prove the person only gave it to him because he was running for President.

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

    Hypocrites. The same people that want to try and ruin Edward's life – probably had affairs themselves.

    May 25, 2011 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  4. TransitDave

    No need to send him to jail for this ,but he's proven that he is a man of no integrity, and should repay the $$$ and lose his law license at least....there are too many sleazeball attornies out there, one less would be progress.........

    May 25, 2011 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  5. Ellen

    I am equally appaled at the behavior of John Edward's, however if there are charges brought against him, there should also be charges brought against Ms. Mellon (can not tell me she wasn't made aware of where HER 700,000.00 was going. There were so many people involved in this cover-up there is no way that Edward's is the only bad guy in this story.

    May 25, 2011 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  6. harry

    Martha Stewart, Lindsey Lohan, John Edwards. Just another in an endless list of those who's wealth or stature will get away with a crime or where a pretense of justice will to be meted out to make some people feel they've done their job and have protected us,the "common folk", from terrible EEVILL.

    May 25, 2011 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  7. Ray

    I am so sick of all the politicians, they do nothing but spend and pad their nest. As for Edwards, he should be ashamed the show his face every morning.

    May 25, 2011 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  8. Dee Dee

    To Chinese guy:
    You have got to be kidding about George Bush! Just because the man wasnt too bright..... does not make him an honest and decent person. He was a joke to America and a Trophy to the Rich Republicans. If that is a good person in your eyes, may your voters registration be revoked before the next election. Until you have walked many moons (from Indian Guy) in someones shoes, then should you make a character statements them.

    May 25, 2011 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  9. Rudy NYC

    Norm wrote:
    @M: 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. Bush warned and tried to stop them, but the Dems wouldn't have any of it. That's what caused the mess we're in. Please try to keep up.
    That is blatantly false. The 'system' was signed into law by Bill Clinton in late December 2000, his final piece. A liberal law that contained additional language, which had been added after the bill was approved by Congress. Bill didn't read it. Republicans voted for it because they wanted to send Bill out on a good note. False pretenses is more like it.

    A few years, repeat years, prior to that law, Bill Clinton requested that Fannie and Freddie make more loans to minorities because their average was 1/3 of the industry average.

    The rest of what you wrote must be Glenn Beck conspiracy theory. I have never heard of anything that sounds remotely close to what you cite.

    May 25, 2011 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  10. Doomguy

    I'm sure in the end he will just get censured like Charlie Rangel, who did far worse, was.

    May 25, 2011 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  11. washington dc

    This matter is not for the american's to be so darn concerned with at all. We must not let personal matter's of our reppresentive's take over the real issues at hand. Like this war, health care, social security, job's.

    May 25, 2011 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  12. GI Joe

    Dems or repubs - boot them out of politics forever and lock them up if they commit a felony.

    Don't turn your heads to either party. Quit electing repeat offenders (Vittar is a good example, also that Mayor in DC and Rudy Guiliani).

    May 25, 2011 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  13. Doomguy

    I'm sure in the end he will just get censured like Charlie Rgell, who did far worse, was.

    May 25, 2011 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  14. CECILTC-Madison

    KARMA Baby! Stupid enough to cheat on a dying wife, stupid to be caught. Dumb ass, I dont feel sorry for him.

    May 25, 2011 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  15. PullUpwindowplease

    Cockiness (no pun intended) is what gets you caught with your pants down! These news articles can run the same story over and over and just change the names. Idiot 1, Idiot 2, Idiot 3, Idiot 4 and 5. It looks like it is not infamous folks deaths that come in 3's! Next!

    May 25, 2011 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  16. vic

    This is to demonstrate to you how lawyers can defend their clients and they new that their client are criminals. They can get way with any crime if they have a good lawyers. Therefore: there are lot of people are not guilty in the present and the other way is correct. Even after the fact that every one in the world knew his story, yet he still want to open a law firm to defend many criminals like him and proof that they are not guilty like him.Very sad story.

    May 25, 2011 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  17. GI Joe

    How could I forget to add that 84-count un-ethical behavior Newt?

    DO NOT RE-ELECT THE OFFENDERS. Lock them up or ignore them.

    May 25, 2011 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  18. Chris

    a lot of you are saying "what's done is done, don't prosecute, let bygones be bygones" etc. Please transpose that onto any other criminal/criminal act and see if you still feel the same. If he broke the law he must be punished. And as a top lawyer he knew that as well as anyone.

    May 25, 2011 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  19. Lynne

    I'll bet Elizabeth is laughing her head off in heaven!

    May 25, 2011 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  20. RealityChecker

    Frog march him in front of everyone American. Edwards lied to everyone and deserves to be humiliated for years to come.

    May 25, 2011 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |

    Look incense until fully prove guilty

    May 25, 2011 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  22. taz

    Ha ha ha...n they thought tiger woods was a joke..at least he didnt impregnate those injection, silicone, botox whores...like arnold n this joker

    May 25, 2011 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  23. AKC

    I would say this regardless of what political party he was a member of, but I think it just time to let this situation die. There is nothing gained in prosecuting him. This was a personal matter. His children have been through enough (including the little girl he had with the mistress), they don't need to see their father on trial and possibly thrown in jail. If he pays back any misused public/political funds that should be good enough in this case. It will just cost even more taxpayer dollars to charge him, go to trial, and then support him in prison (if it came to that).

    May 25, 2011 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  24. SoMyToe

    I think that Obama was fully aware of Edwards notorious behavior when asked him to be his running mate. Edwards declined, because he knew that if he accepted, that his personal life would be on the table for all to see what Obama already knew. Obama knew he would declined, but out of courtesy, asked him anyway...or possibly to see how arrogant and power hungry Edwards would be and to see if he would have the ordacity to take the calling, knowing full well that it would expose him for the "jerk" he is. We dont need different politicians, we just need decent people in office – thats all.

    May 25, 2011 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  25. Kim

    Ahhhhh! The suffering begins! He deserves this and everything else he's going to get in the future because of what he did to his wife and kids.

    May 25, 2011 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
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