A federal judge ruled this afternoon that John Edwards could hire two lawyers who recently represented Rielle Hunter in a civil case over a videotape featuring the former candidate in a sexual encounter with his mistress.
U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Eagles determined that Alan Duncan and Allison Van Laningham, who represented Rielle Hunter in the now-settled civil dispute, would be permitted to defend Edwards in his criminal trial, but they would be prohibited from participating in any questioning or cross-examination of Hunter. Eagles indicated in her ruling that "without a doubt" a conflict exists for Duncan and Van Laningham if Hunter testifies.
Edwards' legal team is led by high-profile Washington attorney Abbe Lowell, who will most likely handle the questioning of Hunter should she be called to the stand.
In court filings the prosecutors submitted prior to the hearing - the government revealed that Hunter had entered into a limited immunity agreement prior to her grand jury testimony and had provided "testimonial, documentary and physical evidence." The government also outlined a revealing preview of Hunter's anticipated testimony at the trial.
"The [g]overnment expects…Ms. Hunter would testify that she was, of course, a participant in the ongoing affair, which spanned the duration of Edwards' official campaign for President," the motion states. "She acknowledges cash spent and benefits conferred (to include medical care, living expenses, furniture, clothing, vacations, luxury travel and accommodations, and cash payments) as the result of Edwards' and others' efforts to support and conceal her, the affair and the pregnancy from the media."
In the hearing this afternoon, the lead prosecutor - Assistant US Attorney Robert Higdon - shed some additional light on the immunity deal. Higdon told the court that the government had promised not to use Hunter's grand jury testimony or information she provided to investigators against her, but stopped short of promising not to prosecute her. At this point, however, Higdon said the government did not anticipate pursuing any charges against Hunter.
Edwards, a two-time Democratic candidate for President, was charged last June in a six-count felony indictment alleging he illegally solicited hundreds of thousands of dollars from two wealthy donors to support and seclude Hunter during her pregnancy. Edwards has pleased not guilty to all the charges and the trial is expected to begin next month.