CHAPEL HILL — John Edwards, the former U.S. senator and presidential candidate facing federal criminal charges, has asked for more time to prepare for his trial.
In a document filed in federal court Tuesday, attorneys representing Edwards argued that there would be insufficient time if the trial goes in October, as scheduled, for the hearing of numerous legal issues tied to a case that not only is complex but also novel.
"The novelty of the government's theory in this case is underscored by the fact that, in the more than 40 year history of federal election laws in this country, no candidate has ever been prosecuted on this theory," attorneys Jim Cooney and Wade Smith said in their request for an extension.
Prosecutors contend that Edwards, 58, violated campaign finance laws by secretly obtaining and using contributions from two wealthy supporters to hide his mistress and her pregnancy from the public during his unsuccessful bid for president in 2008.
The payments, which covered living, medical and other expenses for Rielle Hunter, a videographer with whom he had an extramarital affair and a child, are at the heart of the dispute. Prosecutors argue the donations were campaign contributions because they were meant to hide the affair so Edwards could keep his 2008 presidential bid alive. They also contend the contributions exceeded legal limits.
Edwards has said he did not break the law.
"(T)his matter has been one of the most highly publicized cases in the history of North Carolina," attorneys for Edwards said in the court document. "Selection of a fair and impartial jury will require consideration of a special jury procedures, including an extensive jury questionnaire to determine whether potential jurors have been biased by the media coverage..."
The attorneys also argue that Edwards, the sole parent to his 11-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter since his wife Elizabeth's death this past December, needs to be around in October to take them to school and pick them up, to ferry them to appointments and activities and to work with them on homework and care for other needs.
In addition, the attorneys said, Cate Edwards, the older daughter, is to be married on Oct. 24 and take a two-week honeymoon.
"The defendant will simply not have the ability to care for his children and work with attorneys in this case if this case is tried at the October 2011 Criminal term in light of the absence of his daughter," the document states.
Last week, Edwards also added a new high-profile litigator from Washington to his defense team. Abbe Lowell, according to the document, has been unable to have the "necessary tasks to participate meaningfully in his defense."
In July, during a pre-trial hearing in Greensboro, the judge overseeing the proceeding set the trial for October but acknowledged that another judge who would take over the case might entertain a request for a delay.
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