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. Wanda

    Serves him well.

    May 25, 2011 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  2. willard

    I remmber that john Edward make rude word his mouth to dick cheny about her daughter lesbain so why he make trouble act affair with other woman so I said no excuse to him what happened about affair

    May 25, 2011 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  3. Me

    Putting yourself up for election is asking to be judged. Candidates judge their opponents and ask the voter to judge them as well. Edwards got get caught being untrustworthy and dishonest (lying about it).

    May 25, 2011 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  4. Ryan

    Too bad he's not a Republican. He could simply ask Jesus for forgiveness and run for President.

    May 25, 2011 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  5. brooklyn4ever

    For the embarassment he caused his family and how he deserted his wife as she bravely battled terminal cancer while he unzipped his pants with a tramp, I hope they throw the book at the cheating, useless, waste of skin and that all charges that are brought against him are found true and that he gets to share a 6" X 9" cell with a guy named "Bubba". Loser

    May 25, 2011 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  6. Linda

    Not much good about this guy is there.

    May 25, 2011 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  7. willie

    None of this would have happened if he had used a condom. Seriously, if a man isn't smart enough to wrap his dinky during an extramarital affair what does that say about his decision making capabilities?
    He's not just a liar and a cheat, he's a stupid one at that!

    May 25, 2011 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  8. up it

    sad...for his kids. like has been said, no suprise, ploiticians lie...its what they do! say anything u want to hear so they can get ur checkmark...thats why obama got voted in! i have always voted. thinking about never voting again, whats the point!

    May 25, 2011 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  9. just saying

    Everyone should look at thier past. Look at some our great people from history. Not everyone is always right. Not even me. String him ok have u ever done something wrong. Stole in u'r life? Lied to someone? What's the big deal?

    May 25, 2011 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  10. Texun

    Ooo! A witch hunt! Where's Ken Star?.

    May 25, 2011 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  11. Rebecca

    Illegal immigration...illegal drug trafficking...human trafficking,,,john edwards tried to hide an affair...hmmm, what do you think the justice department should be spending their time and OUR money on????

    May 25, 2011 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  12. bhavin

    "doesn't want to lose his license, not to mention he is terrified of going to jail," – Idiot should have known better!

    May 25, 2011 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  13. Limbaugh is a liberal

    Warning to any past rivals of Obama: he will hunt you down! He'll unleash his DoJ dogs on you! You won't escape!

    May 25, 2011 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  14. Dan

    Why doesn't the article mention Edwards party affiliation? Can you imagine if a Edwards was a former GOP presidential canidate? I doubt the story would have been ignored as long as this one has been ignored. Just another example of the double standard.

    May 25, 2011 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  15. will

    All that happened to him would have been averted if he just used a condom. Seriously, if a man isn't even smart enough to cover his winky during an extramarital affair what does that say about his decision making capabilities?
    He's not just a liar and a cheat, he's a moron too.

    May 25, 2011 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  16. Lee

    Yes, we should forgive him his trespasses. But, we should also allow our system of justice to prosecute his crimes and hold him accountable. He is disgraceful as he had an illicit affair and fathered a child out of wedlock while his wife battled cancer and unltimately lost her battle. So forgive him and understand that he made a mistake, but do not dismiss his bad behavior, either.

    May 25, 2011 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  17. Brent

    Tax dollars at work, yes! Prosecution and a stiff punishment should be a deterrent to crime! If you don't we only encourage this abuse of power.

    May 25, 2011 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  18. Tughral

    It would be total waste of tax payers money rather he could be asked to return the money with interest or and some penalty and close the chapter. If people have this kind of standared than if each american is guilty of something or the other. Start from the Pope to people every one is guilty of something or the other. Country is broke and this is how we got
    bank rupt stage.

    May 25, 2011 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  19. yerballs

    what a pathetic excuse for a man.

    May 25, 2011 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  20. Joeby

    I'm pretty sure that most people in the world would have a little more compassion when their spouse was dying from Cancer.
    Throw the mud now, clown

    May 25, 2011 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  21. nytw

    Typical piece of political garbage.

    May 25, 2011 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  22. TexasTeaBaggin

    At least he wasn't trying to have sex with young boys like the GOPs Larry wide-stance Craig and Mark Foley.

    May 25, 2011 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  23. Peter E

    If you're a store clerk who steals a mere buck from the cash register, you get fired and they call the police on you. If you are an administrator at a small company who embezzles small amounts of money for personal purposes, you go to jail. If you are rich and famous and politically well connected and have used hundreds of thousands of dollars of others' money for shady purposes... well, you get a plea deal and a clean slate. THAT's American justice...

    May 25, 2011 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  24. joe

    Life is hard and complicated. "Life" didn't have a say in his extraordinarily poor decision. It's absolutely OK to expect good character in people and demand it from our would be leaders.

    May 25, 2011 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  25. Trevor

    If he actually commited a crime, bring him to justice. If he didn't stop crying over the spilled milk, he is human, we all make mistakes, and life will move on. I hate how these days everybody is trying to make things an issue when there really isnt one. Moralitly is relative to each person, so for one person to stand up on a soap box and say "how it should be" is rather absurd.
    Unfortunantly, in my opinion, too many people that would make excellent decisions for the country dont run for office because they have skeletons in their closet that they dont want brought to light. Just because people made a mistake in the past or even in the present, it doesnt mean that their judgment is flawd.

    May 25, 2011 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
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