Rielle Hunter can pursue charges

staff writerSeptember 13, 2011 

In this undated image rendered from video and provided by Extra, Rielle Hunter is shown during an interview. Edwards' political action committee paid $100,000 in a four-month span to a newly formed firm run by Rielle Hunter, who directed the production of just four Web videos, one a mere 2 1/2 minutes long.

AP PHOTO/EXTRA

Andrew Young, the former aide for John Edwards who wrote a tell-all book about the 2008 presidential campaign, his wife and his attorneys could find themselves in criminal trouble.

A judge in Orange County Superior Court ruled Monday afternoon that lawyers for Rielle Hunter, the videographer with whom Edwards had an extramarital affair and a child, had presented enough evidence to pursue criminal contempt charges against the Youngs and their attorneys.

At issue is whether the Youngs and their attorneys violated a court order when they slipped information to federal prosecutors that had been placed under seal in Orange County Superior Court.

Judge Mike Morgan stressed in his ruling that he was not deciding the core issue, he simply found enough evidence to warrant another hearing on the matter.

The Youngs are involved in a legal tussle with Hunter over ownership of a videotape that purportedly shows Edwards and Hunter having sex, and other items that Hunter claims are hers. She sued the Youngs in 2010 in Orange County, where the former Edwards aide and his wife live.

The Youngs say they found the items in a house they once shared with Hunter while they were helping her hide from National Enquirer reporters.

Campaign finance probe

As lawyers gathered information for the civil matter in state courts, federal prosecutors were looking into allegations that Edwards had violated federal campaign finance law.

This summer, federal prosecutors charged Edwards, 58, with violating campaign finance laws by using contributions from two wealthy supporters to hide his relationship with Hunter and her pregnancy during his unsuccessful 2008 bid for president.

Edwards has said he did not break the law, and his attorneys filed a flurry of documents in federal court last week asking for the case to be dismissed.

Though the federal case and state case are in two different court systems and are about different allegations, they are linked.

Andrew Young is expected to be a key witness for federal prosecutors in their case against Edwards.

Information provided

In the state civil case, attorneys for the Youngs deposed Edwards for nearly six hours in February while he was under oath - a question-and-answer session from which any videotapes and transcripts were supposed to be sealed from public scrutiny.

But Hunter's attorneys contend the Youngs and their lawyers violated that protective order when they handed over that information to federal investigators. Hunter's attorneys argue they should be held in criminal contempt of court for giving that information without the former videographer's "knowledge, input or consent."

Lawyers for the Youngs argued Monday that they provided information to federal prosecutors in compliance with a federal court order.

But Hunter's lawyers argued that even though the federal order was under seal, Young's lawyers should have raised the issue in state courts so their client could have a chance to review what was at stake.

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

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