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. mikeb

    Forgive him, but you, accusers and all other people, don't sin.

    May 25, 2011 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  2. Disco

    He's nothing but a worthless ambulance chasing hypocrite! Typical liberal. Lectures others on helping the less fortunate while he lounges in his 20 million dollar house!

    May 25, 2011 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  3. NVa Native

    Edwards failed himself and his family – how were all you selfrighteous people injured? Adultery is illegal so try to convict him on that ...HAH!
    I don't condone it, but you all are no saint either. Is it because he was a Democratic politician or a (God forbid!) trial lawyer?
    (BTW – trial lawyers are sometimes the only people who will help you when you are going up against the likes of the Koch Bros. SO I guess it makes sense the Repubs/tea-baggers hate them.)
    Its' not like Edwards cheated with his co-worker/best friend's wife then paid the husband and children hush money through his parents. Which is illegal. (Ensign)
    It's not like he admitted to paying a prositute for sex – which is illegal. (Vitter was just re-elected)
    Too many hypocrites.

    May 25, 2011 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  4. Ben

    Put this wife cheater in jail!

    May 25, 2011 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  5. Name

    Resources would be better spent on a real crime than this case. Especially, if it did not create a conflict of interest.

    May 25, 2011 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  6. Josh

    I don't get why they are saying it was a crime. It doesn't seem to be campaign contributions he used. It was a gift from a friend he used to cover up a scandal. Morally wrong yes but illegal...doesn't seem like it. His political career is over. Just let him be and move on.

    May 25, 2011 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  7. Alan

    Leave the guy alone...don't we have bigger fish.....How about some of those bankers who recklessly caused the collapse of the financial markets, ruining millions of lives around the world...not one has been jailed...not one

    May 25, 2011 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  8. RusTnuts

    Another Democratic letch misusing his position to try and hide their inappropriate sexual exploits. Should have taken a hint from from mr and mrs Clinton...take back the damn dress when you're done!

    May 25, 2011 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  9. L Jordan

    @ ROCCO – You have missed the mark on John Edwards by thinking he is someone who faltered once. Yes we all make mistakes in life and we each have to pay the consequences for our being human and that is how we learn life lessons. John Edwards still has not learned from the egregious errors of his ways. First he broke his marriage vow, second he did this while is wife was dying from cancer, third after his affair was exposed he claimed to have fessed up which was another lie. He used his wife, he used his friends, he used money that was designated for a political campaign not flying that slut Reille Hunter around the country and hiding her out in ocean front estates. The affair and his odious character and behavior towards friends are a private matter. The fact that he misappropriated funds designated for public use is the real problem that can not be over looked as a matter of a being human and life being hard. He millionaire life style sure made his life hard and he had plenty of his own money to take care of the slut and the kid. Johnnie boy needs to man up and suffer the consequences of his actions and that means going on trial. If he cops a plea bargiin Johnnie boy better serve his time or else the Justice Dept run by Eric Holder should be held accountable for cutting a break that neither you nor I would get if we broke the law.

    May 25, 2011 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  10. AB

    Jonathan Edwards is not in a position to be made a "better offer" by the government. He is guilty of misusing campaign funds to cover up the consequences of his affair with Reille Hunter and he knows it.The entire sordid affair has come back to haunt him–He's facing criminal procescution and disbarment. The government's case seems rock solid.

    May 25, 2011 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  11. Derik

    So he spent the money of the people to cover up his affair and the government wants to file charges. But filing charges will cost MORE money.

    I for one would be ok if our GOVERNMENT simply did not spend any more money....

    May 25, 2011 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  12. EmsMom

    When will men learn? Especially the politicians. It all comes out in the end...was it really worth it?

    May 25, 2011 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  13. StephenW

    Wait...wait...Let me get this straight...John Edwards lies about fathering a child and makes payments that clearly qualify as illegal...at the same time banks like Goldman Sachs robbed this country blind causing the greatest economic failure since the Great Depression.....and the DOJ is choosing to go after Edwards??? Really???


    May 25, 2011 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  14. rand

    A friend of mine just said "Isn't he the guy that got $300.00 haircuts?? I couldn't stop laughing................I said "yes , he is the guy, if he's stupid enough to pay that much for a haircut, he's stupid enough to father a child out of wedlock behind his cancer stricken wife's back."

    May 25, 2011 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  15. ryan

    shame on you man !! what a shame !!! one more political loser !!

    May 25, 2011 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  16. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    I wonder what other political figure is sleepless at night knowing that he/she will be next; follow the money trail.

    May 25, 2011 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  17. Burbank

    So glad this creep didn't become president. If he sold out his own sick and dying wife, he wouldn't hesitate for a second to sell out the rest of us as well! I'm glad he's getting prosecuted.

    May 25, 2011 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  18. Bob Smith

    Edwards is known for, in a personal injury case he handled, talking in the voice of the baby who was killed. In his criminal prosecution, the prosecutor should talk in Elizabeth's voice: John, why did try to cover up the affair with campaign contributions... why???

    May 25, 2011 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  19. NVa Native

    Blame Fannie/Freddie .... Bush tried to control the bankers??
    Norm you are a typical fox following idiot, fool, moron!!
    Repubs and their corporate bosses created it all – including the Great Recession, un-emplyment, real-estate melt down, etc., while you blindly followed the lies of your "heroes".

    May 25, 2011 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  20. Mike Hunt

    John Edwards made a human mistake but then committed a felony in the cover-up. Will the American people forgive the first?

    May 25, 2011 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  21. 43 North

    Off topic, but here's my head-scratcher: Why don't these men (Arnold, John Edwards) use birth control + condoms with their paramours? Why risk AIDS and unplanned pregnancies? Having an affair is one thing, but why expose yourself to STDs or babies who must be supported financially for 18+ years?

    May 25, 2011 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  22. Jen

    I get so frustrated when I hear about this stuff! The guy had such a promising future and now look what he's gotten himself into. I hope that Videographer was worth your career, John.

    May 25, 2011 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  23. Public Enemy Number 2

    I liked Edwards. He had a bright future in the Democratic Party. All he had to do was keep it in his pants and he didn't. Not only that, but to father a child outside of his marriage while his wife had cancer??? That was the most despicable act since Newt Gingrich dumped his second wife to marry his third.

    However, I only believe this should be a criminal matter because he allegedly used campaign contributions to conduct his affairs. And I hope he faces criminal charges and is sent to prison for that.

    May 25, 2011 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  24. California Republican

    If the guy used donated money for personal reasons other than what the money was intended for, its a crime. if the court finds he commited a crime, then he must do the time. The morals of our country are going into the toilet if this type of thing is considered acceptable. The man has a law degree, he should know right from wrong. If he chose to do what he knew was wrong and it violated his oath and ethics, he should loose whatever the court finds apropriate.

    May 25, 2011 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  25. Name

    I guess he won't be running for president this year

    May 25, 2011 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
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