DOJ gives green light for Edwards prosecution

May 23, 2011 9:00:00 PM PDT
The ABC11 Eyewitness News I-Team has developed exclusive new information that has not been previously reported.

The United States Department of Justice in Washington has given the go ahead for John Edwards to be prosecuted in connection with a campaign finance investigation.

A source familiar with the case tells the I-Team Edwards now knows that federal prosecutors intend to indict him.

As we have been reporting, the former Senator has been the focus of a federal grand jury investigation in Raleigh for the past two-and-a-half years.

From Chopper11 HD Tuesday evening the Edwards mansion in Orange County appeared to be quiet.

The I-Team has learned Edwards is deciding how to proceed now that the Justice Department has given the green light for him to face criminal charges.

In January 2009, a federal grand jury began to investigate whether he violated campaign finance laws, while concealing the affair and the baby he had with Rielle Hunter.

In July 2009, former Edwards's campaign aide, Andrew Young testified for nine hours. He talked about the use of campaign funds and the effort to cover up the affair by telling the world he was the father of the baby.

"This was completely John Edwards's idea, completely John Edwards's plan and he systematically sold me, Rielle and my wife on this," Young previously said.

In August 2009, Hunter arrived with baby Quinn to testify.

Federal prosecutors have been focused on hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations.

Young says much of the money used to hide the affair came from millionaire heiress Bunny Mellon, and they called it "Bunny money."

By December of 2010, the federal grand jury investigation intensified with several key witnesses testifying. Jonathan Prince, the Edwards campaign manager, Jennifer, a senior adviser and relatives of Mellon.

And at the end of March, Young met with federal prosecutors and his lawyers for four hours at a law firm in Washington.

Edwards will have the option of entering a guilty plea and will be able to avoid a costly criminal trial with an uncertain outcome.

Gregory Craig, John Edwards's attorney in Washington released the following statement Wednesday in response to the story ABC11 broke Tuesday evening.

"John Edwards has done wrong in his life -- and he knows it better than anyone -- but he did not break the law. The government's theory is wrong on the facts and wrong on the law. It is novel and untested. There is no civil or criminal precedent for such a prosecution. The government originally investigated allegations that Senator Edwards's campaign's funds were misused but contained its pursuit even after finding that not one penny from the Edwards campaign was involved. The Justice Department has wasted millions of dollars and thousands of hours on a matter more appropriately a topic for the Federal Election Commission to consider, not a criminal."

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