Bloomberg News

John Edwards Loses Bid to Dismiss Campaign Crime Case

October 27, 2011

(Updates with John Edwards comment in seventh paragraph.)

Oct. 27 (Bloomberg) -- John Edwards, the former vice presidential candidate accused of accepting illegal campaign contributions to hide an extramarital affair, lost a bid for dismissal of the case he claims is being driven by politics.

Edwards, a former North Carolina senator, argued that prosecutors abused their authority in charging him, that his indictment failed to state an actual crime and that grand jury proceedings in the case were flawed. U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles in Greensboro, North Carolina, rejected those arguments and denied Edwards’s request for grand jury materials.

“These matters are better to be dealt with by the jury at trial,” Eagles said today at the conclusion of a two-day hearing.

Edwards, Democrat John Kerry’s running mate in the 2004 election, was the subject of a two-year investigation into whether he used more than $925,000 in contributions to conceal his relationship with filmmaker Rielle Hunter, with whom he fathered a child. He withdraw in January 2008 from the race for the presidential nomination.

Prosecutors allege that campaign donations in 2007 and 2008 were part of an effort to prevent disclosures that would have undermined his presidential campaign. Edwards accepted about $725,000 from one person and more than $200,000 from another, according to the indictment.

Federal law limits the amount a person may contribute to candidates. The most an individual could contribute in the 2008 presidential primary was $2,300.

Donors Identified

“I know I’ll get my day in court so that the people will hear my side,” Edwards said after the hearing. “I did not violate the law and never for a second believed that I was violating campaign law.”

Court documents identified the donors as millionaire heiress Rachel “Bunny” Mellon and Dallas-based trial lawyer Fred Baron.

Mellon, who is to testify as a witness in the case, allegedly wrote more than $700,000 in personal checks made payable to a friend and listed in the memo lines that the checks were for antique furniture, according to court documents. Baron, finance chairman for Edwards’s presidential campaign, died of blood cancer in October 2008.

The indictment puts the court in “uncharted territory,” as no court in 100 years has held that the conduct Edwards is charged with violates the Federal Election Campaign Act, his lawyers said last month in court papers.

Defense Argument

The court would also have to find that Edwards had “fair warning” that his conduct would violate the law, according to court papers. Without those findings, “the government’s entire case fails,” his lawyers said.

Edwards’s lead attorney, Abbe Lowell, said the motions filed with the court “at least raised serious and substantial questions that the judge will have to consider at trial.”

“This is just the beginning,” Lowell said after the hearing.

Lowell replaced former White House lawyer Greg Craig on the case in August. North Carolina attorney Wade Smith, a close friend of Edwards, left the trial team this month after the government raised questions about possible conflicts of interest. Eagles ruled there was no conflict of interest as to Lowell.

The case is U.S. v. Edwards, 1:11-cr-00161, U.S. District Court, Middle District of North Carolina (Greensboro).

--Editors: Mary Romano, Charles Carter

To contact the reporter on this story: Sophia Pearson in Philadelphia at spearson3@bloomberg.net; John Peragine in Greensboro, North Carolina, at drjohnnd@hotmail.com.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net.


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