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John Edwards' lawyers ask judge to toss campaign cash case

October 26, 2011|By James Oliphant
(Chuck Burton/AP )

Disgraced former presidential candidate John Edwards was back in a federal courtroom in Greensboro, N.C. Wednesday, with his lawyers arguing that the criminal case against him should be tossed out.

Edwards, a former senator from North Carolina and the 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee, faces a January trial on charges that wealthy supporters funnelled more than $900,000 to his mistress, Rielle Hunter, during his 2008 presidential run. The government alleges that the payments violated federal campaign finance laws.

According to the Associated Press, Edwards’ lawyer, Washington D.C. attorney Abbe Lowell, contended in court that the complaint against Edwards should be dismissed because neither Edwards nor anyone connected to his campaign could have known payments by third parties to another person that never traveled through a campaign account violated federal contribution limits.

"Criminal laws are supposed to be written in Congress," Lowell said. "They should not be written on the desks of prosecutors who decide after the fact what is to be permissible."

Lowell called the case against Edwards “crazy,” the AP reported, and insisted Edwards know nothing about checks from his former national campaign finance chairman, Fred Baron, and banking heiress Rachel “Bunny” Mellon to Hunter.

Edwards, 58, was charged in June with four counts of illegal campaign contributions, one count of conspiracy and one count of making false statements.

Prosecutors maintain the money from Edwards' supporters to Hunter constituted campaign donations because it furthered his political career and that Edwards was a knowing part of a conspiracy to cover up the payments in an attempt to protect his image.

“The defendant knew two wealthy people, who he also knew were willing to help him in any way they could,” federal prosecutor David Harbach told U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Eagles, according to ABC News. “He asked them for money, he asked them to pay expenses’” to support his presidential bid.

According to the AP, Lowell cited the case of former U.S. Sen. John Ensign to support his argument. Ensign’s parents gave a $96,000 check to his married mistress as a “severance” when she left his campaign. The FEC later determined the check was a gift, not a contribution.

Rumors of infidelity dogged Edwards' 2008 campaign, and he repeatedly denied them. But in January 2010 he acknowledged that he was the father of Frances Quinn Hunter, now 3. His marriage to the late Elizabeth Edwards collapsed as a result.

Last weekend, Edwards attended the wedding of his daughter, Cate Edwards, to Trevor Upham in Chapel Hill. According to reports, he walked her down the aisle.

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