John Edwards to plead not guilty to campaign charges

Washington Bureau

John Edwards will plead not guilty Friday to charges that he received illegal campaign contributions and concealed them from federal election officials, his lawyer said.

For the Record, 11:08 a.m. June 3: An earlier version of this article incorrectly gave John Edwards’ age as 58. He is 57.

The onetime North Carolina senator and presidential candidate “will tell the court he is innocent of all charges, and will plead not guilty. He did not break the law and will mount a vigorous defense,” Gregory Craig, the former Obama White House counsel, said in a statement.

Edwards, 57, is scheduled to appear before a federal magistrate in Winston-Salem, N.C., Friday at 2:30 p.m. EDT. He reportedly had been trying to work out a plea deal with the government.

Edwards, the Democratic nominee for vice president in 2004 and a candidate for president in 2004 and 2008, was charged with four counts of illegal campaign contributions, one count of conspiracy and one count of making false statements. The charges stem from a years-long investigation into whether Edwards used money from two supporters to cover up an affair with Rielle Hunter, a former campaign videographer with whom he had a child.

Prosecutors say the money from Edwards’ supporters to Hunter constituted campaign donations because it furthered his political career. Edwards’ attorneys consider that an improper interpretation of campaign-finance laws, and contend that the case is a matter for the Federal Election Commission, not the courts.


The money Edwards is alleged to have used to cover up his affair came from his national campaign finance chairman, Fred Baron, who died in 2008, and banking heiress Rachel “Bunny” Mellon, who is 100.

The government alleges that Edwards, in the interests of protecting his political career and his image as a “devoted family man,” engaged in a conspiracy with unnamed others to conspire to accept campaign contributions in excess of federal limits and conceal those contributions from the FEC.

The scheme, the indictment charges, was an effort to hide Edwards’ affair with Hunter and conceal that Edwards fathered her child. Hunter is identified only as “Person B” in the indictment, with former Edwards aide Andrew Young, who initially claimed publicly that he was the father of Hunter’s daughter, identified as “Person A.”

Without identifying Mellon or Baron, the indictment states that Edwards accepted more than $900,000 solicited from two wealthy supporters and used the funds to pay Hunter’s living expenses. The government identified seven checks allegedly sent by Mellon (identified as “Person C”) to support Hunter, and nine instances in which Baron (“Person D”) allegedly paid for Hunter’s travel and living expenses.