The scandal that engulfed John Edwards shattered his image as a devoted family man and led to his indictment. But as the former Democratic presidential candidate and senator walked into a federal courthouse Thursday, he was a man surrounded by family.
Edwards, fighting allegations that he violated federal campaign finance laws during his failed 2008 bid for president, was flanked by his parents and his grown daughter Cate as jury selection began in his case.
Prosecutors contend Edwards secretly obtained hundreds of thousands of dollars from two wealthy supporters – one who is no longer alive and another who is more than 100 years old – to provide living expenses for a paramour who was pregnant with his child.
That woman, Rielle Hunter, was a campaign videographer who gave birth to their daughter, Frances Quinn, at a time when Edwards’ wife, Elizabeth, was battling the cancer that ended her life in late 2010.
Fred Baron, a wealthy Texas lawyer, and Rachel “Bunny” Mellon, a benefactor, provided more than $900,000 in living expenses for Hunter, prosecutors say. They argue the money should have been reported as campaign contributions because it was meant to help Edwards preserve and protect his family-man image.
As Edwards’ family watched from the back of a third-floor courtroom in the federal courthouse in Greensboro, two groups of 100 men and women were given a brief review of the jury selection process by Judge Catherine Eagles.
They were young and old. And they came from the far-reaching federal court district that extends from Statesville in the west to Durham in the east and includes Orange County, where Edwards lives.
Eagles, in a speech that was conversational and sometimes light-hearted, told the potential jurors what 16 of them – 12 jurors and four alternate jurors – might do for the next month and a half.
Not like TV
The case, on its surface, seems to be one that is as much made for the tabloids as it is for legal scholars studying the reach of federal regulations governing elections.
But Eagles told the men and women what would be important.
“This is not a case about whether Mr. Edwards is a good husband or a good politician,” Eagles said. “This is a case about whether Mr. Edwards violated campaign law.”
Eagles, a federal judge who many years ago worked in the same firm as Alan Duncan, a Greensboro lawyer who Edwards recently added to his team, told potential jurors that those selected would be part of an “interesting case.”…