A federal judge in Greensboro, N.C., today denied John Edwards’ motions to dismiss the six felony charges against him. While expressing some reservations about the government’s case, Judge Catherine Eagles found that the arguments raised by Edwards’ legal team were not sufficient to warrant dismissal.
Outside the courthouse after the ruling, Edwards brushed off the setback and again proclaimed his innocence.
“What I know with complete and absolute certainty is I didn’t violate campaign law,” he said, “and I never for a second believed I was violating campaign laws. ”
The defense team had filed five separate motions to dismiss the case, arguing that the government had brought the indictment employing a “crazy” and “radical theory” of federal campaign law.
The prosecution has alleged that Edwards is criminally liable for his role in a conspiracy to solicit hundreds of thousands of dollars from two wealthy donors, well in excess of contribution limits, to support and seclude Edwards’ pregnant mistress, Rielle Hunter. Crucially, the indictment alleges the money was used “for the purposes of influencing an election” for federal office, specifically as a means of protecting and advancing Edwards’ candidacy for the 2008 Democratic nomination for president.
Edwards pleaded not guilty last June to all of the charges. His defense team has characterized the money received from the donors as gifts not subject to election finance laws. There are no allegations in the indictment that any of that money passed through Edwards’ Presidential campaign coffers.
In allowing the case to move forward to a trial, Judge Eagles nonetheless did note in her rulings today that some of the issues raised by the defense were “quite thorny,” and she did not preclude Edwards from raising them again in the future.
“I have some concerns with the prosecution’s definition of ‘for the purposes of influencing an election,’” Eagles said before denying the first of the five motions to dismiss. The judge also indicated that defense arguments regarding proper venue for some of the alleged crimes raised “interesting questions.” But she said those questions should be dealt with at trial and allowed the indictment to stand.
Abbe Lowell, lead defense attorney for Edwards, said he was neither surprised nor dismayed by the rulings. “It doesn’t take make much for the government to get past a pre-trial motion at this early stage,” Lowell said after the hearing. What the judge did today, Lowell said, was to “kick the can down the road” while noting “that can has some dents in it.”
The trial is scheduled to begin in January.
“What’s important now is that I now get my day in court,” Edwards said. “After all these years, I finally get my day in court, and people get to hear my side of this and what actually happened. “