RALEIGH — John Edwards finally got an answer from the grand jury, but it was not the one he was looking for.
On Friday morning, the grand jury in Raleigh indicted the former North Carolina senator on charges that he violated campaign finance law during his 2008 presidential campaign.
The grand jury had been investigating Edwards and the merits of this case for over two years. The official indictment came down against Edwards on six counts — four involving illegal payments, one involving conspiracy and one involving false statements.
Edwards had a chance to settle out of court, to take a plea deal offered to him by the prosecution. However, he did not take the deal, and has decided to fight this indictment in court. Local political experts say fighting this indictment will be a messy and costly ordeal for Edwards, even if he wins.
Part of the indictment challenged the fact that one of Edwards’ main campaign ideals was his solid base as a family man.
“Edwards knew that public revelation of the affair and the pregnancy would destroy his candidacy by, among other things, undermining Edwards’ presentation of himself as a family man and by forcing his campaign to divert personnel and resources away from other campaign activities to respond to criticism and media scrutiny regarding the affair and pregnancy,” the indictment read. Read the full indictment HERE.
After reading the indictment, there were several people mentioned by “letter,” but not by name. “Person A” appears to be former staffer Andrew Young, who for a time claimed Edward’s illegitimate child as his own. Young is also the author of “The Politician,” a book detailing his career with Edwards. “Person B” appears to be Rielle Hunter, Edwards’ mistress who gave birth to his illegitimate child in February 2008. “Person C” apparently is heiress Rachel “Bunny” Mellon, a major donor to Edwards’ campaign. “Person D” would apparently be none other than Texas lawyer Fred Baron, who served as Edwards’ campaign finance chairman. Alphabet soup, much?
The big issue at the crux of the indictment is that Edwards—working alone and with the help of others—went out and solicited campaign contributions, and accepted amounts of money in excess of the $25,000 limit on individual contribution. After acceptance, Edwards is accused of using that money to conceal his affair with Hunter, to pay for her various living and medical expenses, and for other things like travel and $1,250 haircuts. According to the indictment, Edwards accepted approximately $725,000 from Baron, and around $250,000 from Mellon. Just a little over the $25,000 limit, right?
“We will not permit candidates for high office to abuse their special ability to access the coffers of their political supporters to circumvent our election laws,’’ Lanny A. Breuer, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, told the Washington Post. “Our campaign finance system is designed to preserve the integrity of democratic elections — for the presidency and all other elected offices — and we will vigorously pursue abuses of the kind alleged today.”
“John Edwards has done wrong in his life — and he knows it better than anyone,” Greg Craig, one of Mr. Edwards’s lawyers, said in a statement last week, “but he did not break the law.” Craig told reporters outside of the courthouse on Friday that Edwards plans to mount a vigorous defense.