A federal grand jury on Friday indicted former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina on charges stemming from payments related to a cover-up of an extramarital affair.
In a 30-second statement to dozens of reporters outside a North Carolina federal courthouse after pleading not guilty to the charges, Edwards said on Friday that he will regret the harm he has caused for the rest of his life, but he did not break the law and he never thought he was breaking the law.
Prosecutors alleged that hundreds of thousands of dollars provided by two donors was used to allow Edwards to continue his run for the presidency, which would be a criminal violation of campaign finance laws, according to a copy of the indictment posted by local North Carolina TV Station WRAL. His attorney, Gregory Craig--former White House counsel to President Obama--is arguing that the cash was a gift from friends who wanted to help their friend shield the affair from his wife, Elizabeth, who died of cancer in December.
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The six charges filed against Edwards include conspiracy, four counts of illegal campaign contributions, and one count of false statements. They represent the conclusion of a two-year federal investigation into the allegations and could result in the state bar revoking Edwards's law license, AP reports. That would be a blow to the former politician's ambitions to move back into legal work once the case ends, but being stripped of his license is the likely price for cutting a deal with investigators to stay out of prison.
The federal investigation began about two years ago in the midst of Edwards’s 2008 presidential campaign, shortly after the tabloid National Enquirer began running a series of stories suggesting that the candidate was involved with Hunter, his campaign videographer.
A grand jury called more than 100 witnesses to build a case against Edwards, and the probe began to pick up steam when his former close aide, Andrew Young, started providing information about a cover-up. In a soap opera-like twist to the story, it was Young who originally claimed to be the father of Hunter’s child in order to take the political fall and let Edwards continue his career.
Edwards denied paternity until January 2010, just before Young released a tell-all memoir about his time working for the candidate.
Young and his wife testified to the grand jury that an estimated $1 million in money from two wealthy donors was used to transport Hunter on private jets and to sequester her in hotel rooms to cover up the affair and her ensuing pregnancy. "Maybe he didn't know exactly where we were, but he knew about the money, he knew about the methodology, and he knew about the sources," Young said in an interview with ABC News.
Democratic strategist Jack Quinn told AP that Edwards is now “the Charlie Sheen of American politics--great hair and no chance for rehabilitation."
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