Edwards pleaded not guilty in federal court in North Carolina on Friday to charges that he spent more than $925,000 to hide his mistress, Rielle Hunter, and their love child from the public during his 2008 White House campaign, according to the Associated Press
A grand jury had indicted Johnny Reid Edwards following an extensive investigation by the IRS and the FBI that has been ongoing for two years, as first reported
by the National Enquirer in March. The National Enquirer broke the story on Edwards' alleged transgressions
in 2008, confronting him outside a Beverly Hills Hilton Hotel.
In the federal indictment [full indictment-pdf
] it is claimed that monies used to support Edwards' mistress should have been considered campaign contributions, which is a contention Edwards' and his team have adamantly objected to.
The text of the federal indictment claims the centerpiece of Edwards candidacy was his public image as a devoted family man. In his campaign Edwards claimed 'family comes first,' according to the indictment, which contends Edwards became involved in an extramarital affair with Hunter, a pregnancy then occurred, and a child was born of this relationship.
Edwards was married to Elizabeth Edwards
, who died from breast cancer in 2010, during the period in which he fathered the child with Hunter. The Edwards' had four children during the span of their marriage.
The indictment claims that "Edwards willingly and knowingly conspired to accept and receive contributions, from at least two individuals, in excess of the limit of $2300 imposed by laws created under the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971. That the Edwards for President committee did file false and misleading finance reports meant to cover-up and device a material fact, during his failed run for the office of President of the United States."
The indictment further claims a conspiracy began between Edwards and others to 'obtain and secretly use hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions,' to conceal the extramarital affair and pregnancy from the public. The feds claim "Edwards knew that public revelations of the affair and pregnancy would destroy his candidacy by, among other things, undermining Edwards presentation of himself as a family man and 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 states that Edwards used two donations of $725,000 and $200,000, for medical, living and travel expenses, accommodations, furniture and a car for Rielle Hunter and their child, beginning in 2007, in an attempt to hide the person(s) from the eye's of the public and from the media, who were hot on his trail following the breaking of the story of his infidelity by the National Enquirer.
Edwards appeared on television in 2008 during which he emphatically stated "That it was absolutely not true" and that he was not the father of Hunter's child and that he had not paid a dime of money to anyone, nor was any paid on his behalf, to Hunter or any others involved in the scandal.
The government claims to have a handwritten note that says "Old Chinese saying: use cash, not credit cards," that was allegedly found in an envelope of money, that was exchanged by individuals during this period.
Edwards said in 2008, according to the indictment "If the allegation is that somehow I participated in payment of money- that is a lie."
Edwards emerged from the courthouse on Friday, after pleading not-guilty, and in a "30-second statement
to the press that surrounded him outside the courthouse, he said he never thought he was breaking the law."
"There is no question that I have done wrong," he said. "And I take full responsibility for having done wrong. And I will regret for the rest of my life the pain and the harm that I have caused to others. But I did not break the law."
“It’s not illegal to be a pig,” said Brett Kappel, a Washington campaign finance expert who has worked for Republicans and Democrats, reports the Washington Post
. “Is what Edwards did slimy? Absolutely. Everyone will agree it was reprehensible. But it’s not a crime.”
Greg Craig, one of Edwards attorneys, said
Friday that Edwards and his law team "will mount a vigorous defense."
According to the Washington Post
, Lanny A. Breuer, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Criminal Division said, “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. Our campaign finance system is designed to preserve the integrity of democratic elections . . . and we will vigorously pursue abuses of the kind alleged today.”