John Edwards indicted: Is it a weak, questionable case built on arcane law?

on June 03 2011 10:33 PM

Former senator and Democratic vice-presidential candidate John Edwards was indicted in a federal court with six counts of campaign finance violation.

The indictment was the culmination of Edwards' fall from grace following his extramarital with a former campaign aide that set off a chain of events leading to his divorce and eventual political demise.

“Mr. Edwards is alleged to have accepted more than $900,000 in an effort to conceal from the public facts that he believed would harm his candidacy,” according to Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer. ”As this indictment shows, 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,” he said.

But a lot of experts are already saying that the case against Edwards is weak. They argue that there is no strong evidence to suggest that Edwards knew the controversial contributions from friends would be accounted for as campaign fund.

According to law, there should be proof that somebody broke the campaign finance law knowingly and wilfully to be charged with criminal violation of campaign finance law.

The case says Edwards conspired to cover up an extramarital affair with a campaign aide in 2007 by misusing campaign contributions.

Edwards denied the charges and said he will plead not guilty. “I will regret for the rest of my life the pain and the harm that I’ve caused to others ... But I did not break the law. And I never, ever thought that I was breaking the law,” he told reporters outside the courthouse.

Also, there is a strong legal opinion that criminal evidence is scant this case. The Justice Department ought to take another look at its own manual, says the Washington Post.

The Post calls it a questionable case.

The six counts brought up by the federal grand jury against Edwards are one count of conspiracy, four involving illegal payments, and one involving false statements. Edwards will get a maximum penalty of five years in prison if he is found guilty.

Scott E. Thomas, a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission, says the case is based on a “novel and misguided theory”. Thomas, who has been retained as an expert witness by Edwards' legal team, says the case has no precedent and that the money in question doesn’t fall within campaign finance laws. .

Another law expert, Melanie Sloan, who is executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, says the charges against Edwards were flimsy, according to NY Times.

The matter is likely to turn on a relatively arcane and untested aspect of campaign finance law about which contributions are subject to federal regulation, according to the NY Times.

The Washington Post, which wrote an editorial against the case, says there is a criminal case based on this novel application of the law goes too far.

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