GREENSBORO — U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles has sided with John Edwards defense team by ordering that any book drafts or articles that speechwriter Wendy Button has about the case be turned over to her former boss.
It is unclear whether any such projects exist.
If they do, lawyers have said, the defense team could use them to show that Button has tried to gain monetarily from the case, hoping to poke at her motives and credibility.
Button is expected to be a key witness for prosecutors in the trial that is expected to start with opening statements today. She wrote for Edwards from his days as a U.S. Senator from North Carolina to his two campaigns for president.
The defense has been seeking information about book or movie deals from Button and Andrew Young, the two former staffers who prosecutors contend will bolster their arguments.
Prosecutors have accused Edwards of conspiring to secretly obtain nearly $900,000 from two wealthy supporters to hide his paramour and her pregnancy during his 2008 run for president.
Edwards has pleaded not guilty to the accusations.
Final jury selection
The former candidate, his team of lawyers and prosecutors are scheduled to finish selection today. A panel of 12, plus four alternates, will hear the case.
Opening statements are set to follow with each side getting 45 minutes.
In preparation for the governments case, the Edwards defense team has sent out subpoenas seeking a wide range of information from Button and from Youngs accountant.
Button has tried to quash the subpoena.
Youngs accountant tried, too, saying he was not authorized by ex-Edwards aide or his wife, Cheri Young, to release any financial records to Edwards attorneys.
The judge ruled partially on the Button matter, saying the former speechwriter was excused from having to turn over details of communications she had with the media and others not tied to the Edwards case.
Nor does she have to turn over her postings about Edwards on Facebook or other social media.
In an order that offers little explanation for her decision, Eagles also said Button did not have to turn over all book or article proposals or correspondence about writing or publishing books or articles about Edwards and other key figures in the case.
But Eagles did order Button who writes occasionally for the online publications Huffington Post and Politico to make book drafts and article drafts available.
Button has written for the Huffington Post and Politico about her frustrations with Edwards and his late wife, Elizabeth, after the National Enquirer broke the news about Rielle Hunter, the campaign videographer with whom the former presidential candidate had an affair and a child.
Defense: Button has data
Edwards and his defense team contend that Button has written a book that could include some of the same information that former aide Andrew Young had in his tell-all account of the 2008 presidential campaign.
Young, who has been offered immunity by prosecutors, could have credibility issues: He once claimed to be the father of Frances Quinn, the child born from Hunters extramarital affair with Edwards.
Although Button is not mentioned by name in the six-count indictment, prosecutors describe a campaign staffer who they claim will support their allegations that Edwards knew the late Fred Baron had provided payments to support and hide Hunter from the media.
Eagles initially announced plans to recuse herself from ruling on the Button matter because her husband worked in the same firm as the North Carolina attorney representing Button.
But attorneys for all the parties Edwards, the government and Button -- waived the need for recusal and agreed that Eagles could preside over the issue.
The judge will rule later on whether Button must turn over all communications with Young, Edwards, government attorneys, agents or others involved in the investigation of her former boss, as the subpoena sought.