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Election Law

Feds, John Edwards Reportedly at Impasse in Talks re Possible Plea

Posted May 31, 2011 6:32 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Did longtime friends of trial attorney John Edwards give him money to help cover up an extramarital affair so he could keep it secret from his cancer-stricken wife, Elizabeth? Or to help the former senator from North Carolina with his campaign for election as the nation's president?

The answer to that question could help determine whether Edwards violated election law, if a possible federal criminal case against him is pursued, reports the Associated Press. Also importantl would be how much Edwards did or did not know about the situation.

However, observers tend to agree with attorney Gregory Craig, who represents Edwards, that any such prosecution would be a stretch, according to the The Hill.

Calling a potential prosecution based on the theory that the payments amounted to in-kind political contributions “novel and untested,” Craig also said, in a written statement, that "there is no civil or criminal precedent for such a prosecution.” He formerly was counsel both to President Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama.

And experts also tell the AP that prosecutors, even if a case is brought against Edwards, might well fail to win a conviction.

"Any assumptions about the certainty of a slam-dunk conviction need look no further than the hung jury in the first Rod Blagojevich trial in Chicago," says Artur Davis, a former Congressman and assistant U.S. attorney from Alabama. "It's hard to imagine a more shattered figure who had endured more public ridicule than Blagojevich, and yet the jury deadlocked on all but one count. Juries are very focused on facts and not personalities."

(The impeached former governor of Illinois is currently being retried before a federal jury in Chicago on most of the counts on which the jury in his first trial deadlocked.)

Meanwhile, Edwards and federal prosecutors are at an impasse in negotiations over a possible felony plea that likely would result in the loss of his law license, if Edwards agreed to it, the AP article says, relying on information from unidentified sources.

Additional coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "DOJ Reportedly OKs Possible Prosecution of John Edwards re Affair Cover-Up Payments"

Washington Wire (Wall Street Journal): "Case Against John Edwards Turns on 2000 FEC Opinion"

Washington Post (opinion): "John Edwards: A jerk, not a felon"

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