John Edwards Charged over Affair Cover-Up

Posted June 3rd, 2011 at 1:00 pm (UTC-5)
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A federal grand jury has indicted former U.S. Senator and 2008 presidential candidate John Edwards on charges he violated campaign finance laws by using political donations to hide an extramarital affair and resulting pregnancy.

The indictment was filed Friday in Edwards' home state of North Carolina. Edwards was charged on six counts — one count of conspiracy, four counts of illegal campaign contributions and one count of false statements.

The Justice Department says Edwards is alleged to have accepted more than $900,000 in an effort to conceal facts from the public that he believed would harm his candidacy. The indictment claims Edwards knew that the public revelation of the affair and pregnancy would undermine his image and force his campaign to divert resources to respond to criticism and media scrutiny.

The case centers around money paid to Edwards' mistress, Rielle Hunter, and a former aide, Andrew Young, who previously claimed paternity of the politician's daughter with Hunter.

The money came from two wealthy supporters of Edwards' 2008 presidential campaign, and prosecutors say the funds should have been reported as campaign donations. But Edwards' lawyers say the money constituted gifts intended to keep the affair secret from Edwards' wife, Elizabeth, who died last year after a long battle with cancer.

Edwards is scheduled to make an initial court appearance Friday afternoon. If convicted, he faces a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each of the six counts.

Reports that Edwards' lawyer, Gregory Craig, would be in North Carolina Friday had fueled speculation that federal prosecutors were ready to indict Edwards or were negotiating a plea agreement with him in order to avoid a trial.

The 58-year-old Edwards resides in North Carolina and was elected to the U.S. Senate from there in 1998.