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Election Law

Jury Selection to Begin in Trial of John Edwards on ‘Largely Untested’ Legal Theory

Posted Apr 12, 2012 9:52 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Jury selection begins in Greensboro, N.C., today in the federal trial of former presidential candidate John Edwards, accused of using campaign funds to hide his affair with Rielle Hunter.

Edwards is accused of violating laws that bar the personal use of campaign funds and cap individual contributions, Bloomberg News reports. His defense team, led by Abbe Lowell, is expected to argue that using nearly $1 million in donor contributions to pay living expenses for a mistress isn’t a campaign-related expense.

The Associated Press says a key issue will be whether Edwards knew about the payments made by the late trial lawyer Fred Baron and heiress Rachel "Bunny" Mellon. Edwards is also accused of conspiracy and false statements.

Former prosecutor Robert Mintz of McCarter & English tells Bloomberg News that the case is the first to prosecute someone for campaign finance violations based on money paid to a third party. “It’s unquestionably a precedent-setting case for the government,” he tells Bloomberg. “The government’s legal theory is largely untested and represents by all accounts a fairly aggressive interpretation of the campaign finance laws.”

A Washington Post profile says Edwards, 58, is increasingly isolated in his “large, lonesome house” in Chapel Hill, N.C., where he is raising two children still living at home. “The antipathy towards him around these parts shows no signs of abating,” the story says.

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