GREENSBORO, N.C. â€” In a federal criminal case that has the markings of sex, money, betrayal and a handsome politicianâ€™s fall from grace, former presidential candidateÂ John Edwardsâ€™ trial for alleged campaign finance violations opens Monday in Greensboro, N.C.
Edwards is accused of accepting more than $900,000 in illegal contributions during his 2008 bid for the Democratic presidential nomination to pay the expenses of his mistress and hide the extramarital affair that, if revealed to voters, almost certainly would have derailed his campaign and shattered his public image as a devoted family man.
The former senator from North Carolina has pleaded not guilty to six criminal counts related to campaign finance violations. If convicted of all charges, Edwards faces up to 30 years in prison and $1.5 million in fines. Opening arguments are scheduled to begin Monday morning and the much-anticipated trial is expected to last at least six weeks.
Prosecutors contend that bills paid by two Edwards benefactors, Rachel â€œBunnyâ€™â€™ Mellon, a banking heiress from Virginia, and the late Fred Baron, a Texas lawyer, actually were unreported campaign contributions designed to cover up his affair withÂ Rielle Hunter, a campaign videographer who gave birth to his daughter.
â€œThe charges against John Edwards in this case flow from his knowing and willful violation of the federal campaign finance laws during his campaign for theÂ Democratic Partyâ€™s nomination for president,â€™â€™ prosecutors said in court filings.
Justice Department prosecutors contend this is a straightforward case of broken campaign finance laws:
â€œA federal candidate may only accept and receive a limited amount of money from any one individual during an election cycle, and he must truthfully report the money he accepts and receives,â€™â€™ the department said a trial brief.
Edwardsâ€™ defense team contends that the payments were not political donations, but gifts from wealthy friends to help address a personal issue unrelated to the campaign. His lawyers suggest that Edwards did not know about the money from Mellon and Baron.