John Edwards seeks case's dismissal

Charges called vague, political

Staff writerSeptember 7, 2011 

Lawyers for John Edwards filed a barrage of court documents Tuesday asking a federal judge to dismiss criminal charges against the former U.S. senator and presidential candidate.

In hundreds of pages, the attorneys contend the charges against Edwards are unconstitutionally vague, that no crime occurred and even if one had, the government did not give him a "fair warning" that his conduct would violate campaign finance laws.

"While much can be said in questioning how Mr. Edwards conducted himself throughout this saga, the allegations in the Indictment that he violated campaign finance laws should not be among them," his attorneys said in one of the memoranda filed in court Tuesday. "The distinction between a wrong and a crime is at the heart of this case."

The lawyers also call the case an abuse of prosecutorial discretion. "This case is about politics," they contend.

The prosecutor, former U.S. Attorney George Holding, is running for Congress as a Republican in 2012. A George W. Bush appointee, he was replaced by President Barack Obama once the Edwards investigation concluded.

Prosecutors contend that Edwards, 58, violated campaign finance laws by secretly obtaining and using contributions from two wealthy supporters to hide his pregnant mistress from the public during his 2008 presidential run.

The payments covered living, medical and other expenses for Rielle Hunter, a videographer with whom he had an extramarital affair and a child. Prosecutors argue the donations exceeded legal limits and were campaign contributions because they were meant to hide the affair so Edwards could keep his presidential bid alive.

The documents give a glimpse into the defense strategy of Edwards' attorneys.

They call the government's description of the payments for Hunter "surprising."

"Common sense and basic human nature establish that Mr. Edwards had a number of non-campaign-related, purely personal reasons to conceal his relationship with Ms. Hunter," the lawyers argue. "Like most men in his situation, he naturally wanted to shield his extramarital affair from public view to avoid hurting his wife and children and to protect his reputation. Likewise, Ms. Hunter understandably wanted to carry out her pregnancy away from the stress of a scandal. Those concerns would exist whether or not Mr. Edwards was a candidate."

The government takes a view, Edwards' attorneys contend, that anything enhancing or protecting a candidate's reputation during a campaign is campaign-related, therefore collapsing "any distinction between a person's candidacy and his private life."

The lawyers argue that Hunter's personal expenses cannot be campaign-related when they were paid by Fred Baron and Bunny Mellon, friends of Edwards.

anne.blythe@newsobserver.com or 919-836-4948

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