John Edwards Indicted On Campaign Finance Law Violations
As expected, a Federal Grand Jury in Raleigh today handed down a six-count indictment against John Edwards related to his efforts to keep an affair with Rielle Hunter during the 2008 Presidential campaign quiet:
Former vice presidential nominee John Edwards was indicted Friday on federal campaign finance charges for allegedly using campaign donations to conceal an extramarital affair while he was running for president in 2008.
The case of USA v. Johnny Reid Edwards contains six counts, including conspiracy, four counts of illegal campaign contributions and one count of false statements.
The indictment was returned in the Middle District of North Carolina Friday, after plea negotiations between lawyers for Edwards and the Justice Department did not produce an agreement, people familiar with the talks said.
A federal grand jury had been examining Edwards’s role in funneling money from political donors to a former campaign aide, Rielle Hunter, allegedly to cover up an extramarital affair the two had while Edwards was a campaigning for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.
Edwards’s Washington-based attorney, Gregory Craig, flew to North Carolina on Thursday as the indictment loomed, to consult with Edwards, a former North Carolina senator.
Justice Department officials declined to comment.
People familiar with the probe have said that Edwards, whose once-promising career was destroyed by the exposure of his affair with Hunter, had considered negotiating a plea agreement because, as a single father, he wanted to put the matter behind him. His estranged wife, Elizabeth Edwards, died of breast cancer in December, leaving behind a grown daughter and two middle-school-age children.
The federal investigation has been underway since at least early 2009, when Edwards confirmed that political groups linked to him were among the potential targets of a probe into his finances.
Individuals familiar with the probe have said that investigators are focusing on whether money paid to Hunter and former Edwards campaign aide Andrew Young constituted campaign donations, since the funds helped Edwards’s presidential campaign by keeping the affair secret.
Asked why no plea agreement had been reached, one of the people familiar with the discussions indicated that Edward was not willing to go as far as prosecutors were insisting he should in accepting criminal culpability.
Taking the case to trial poses risks for both sides. For Edwards, there’s the rather obvious risk that public disapproval of his behavior will influence jury proceedings in addition to bringing to the public’s attention once again the seedy details of his relationship with Hunter and the efforts he undertook to hide her pregnancy from the public while running for President. For the government, there risk involves the fact that this appears to be a unique interpretation of the campaign finance laws given the fact that none of the money that went to Hunter actually ever passed through the Edwards for President campaign. Nonetheless, the fact that this money came from long-time Edwards supporters who had already given money to his campaign in the past, is likely something the U.S. Attorney will concentrate on as evidence that, regardless of the form of the payment, these people believed they were contributing in some way to the Edwards campaign.
Legally, of course, Edwards is innocent until proven guilty. In terms of his public reputation, however, this is just another nail in the coffin.
Here’s the indictment, which is quite sordid in its details about Edwards: