RALEIGH — John Edwards has been spared from having to sit down with attorneys for his former campaign aide next week, when he was scheduled to respond to questions under oath about an alleged sex tape with his mistress.
Judge Carl Fox issued the reprieve in Wake County Superior Court on Thursday, saying the deposition in the wrangle over ownership of the videotape could wait until after the resolution of a federal criminal case against the former senator and 2008 presidential candidate.
Edwards, 57, was accused this month of "participating in a scheme to violate federal campaign finance laws." Federal prosecutors contend that he improperly used campaign money to hide his pregnant mistress while he pursued a bid for the White House.
He was to go behind closed doors Monday with lawyers representing Andrew Young, his former aide who wrote a tell-all book about the 2008 presidential campaign.
But his lawyers argued such a question-and-answer session could cause complications, and possible self-incrimination, for Edwards amid the criminal allegations. Fox agreed to the delay.
"As much as I don't like the idea of staying, I think it's absolutely necessary in the interest of justice," Fox said.
Young, his wife, Cheri, and Rielle Hunter, the former campaign videographer with whom Edwards had an affair and fathered a child, are in a legal battleover who owns the sex tape.
Edwards answered all but 70 of the 2,200 questions asked in a deposition taken in February related to the civil case, his attorney Jim Cooney said.
But lawyers for Young insisted that he had not provided key details that get to the crux of the case.
Though Fox had agreed to preside over further questioning of Edwards behind closed doors, his attorneys said any responses could provide prosecutors with information.
In the questions that Edwards did not answer, Cooney told Fox on Thursday, were inquiries about discussions he had with Fred Baron, a wealthy Texan who died from cancer in 2008, and Rachel "Bunny" Mellon, a wealthy Virginian whose financial transactions are at the crux of the allegations by federal prosecutors.
"All of these questions are undoubtedly squarely within what the government is charging," Cooney said.
Young could be a witness for the prosecution in the federal case, Edwards' attorneys and Young's attorney agreed.
Any information gained by Young's attorneys in a deposition linked to the sex-tape fight could become key in the criminal case against Edwards.
"I'm not suggesting any subterfuge here," Cooney said.
Hunter sued Young in January 2010 contending the sex tape was hers.
Young has argued that he found the tape while packing boxes in the home that he and his wife shared with Hunter just outside Chapel Hill.
David Pishko, an attorney representing Young, said the delay of the deposition could delay the pace of resolution of the lawsuit over the sex tape. The case was set to go to trial in October.
The federal criminal trial, initially set for July, has been postponed until at least October, Cooney said. He added that January was a more likely time.
No crime, he says
Edwards acknowledged outside a federal courthouse in Winston-Salem this month that he had made mistakes that he regretted. But he added that he had not broken any laws.
Young's attorney said his client, too, might find himself in a situation similar to Edwards'. Though Young has not been charged in connection with the campaign allegations against Edwards, Pishko said he might be in front of Fox some time soon asking him to postpone any depositions of Young until after the criminal proceedings.
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