John Edwards Has 'Serious' Heart Condition, Trial Delayed

The criminal trial of John Edwards that was set to begin Jan. 30 will be delayed at least two months because the former Democratic presidential candidate has a "real and serious" heart condition that requires medical intervention.

Federal Judge Catherine Eagles granted the delay after noting that she had received two letters from Edwards' cardiologist detailing the nature of the heart trouble.

While the precise condition was not discussed in open court,  it was revealed that Edwards has had three "episodes" in recent weeks and that he is scheduled to undergo a procedure next month.   Edwards has also been advised to avoid driving.

Edwards appeared "a little pale and gaunt" during a brief interaction inside the courthouse, where cameras are not permitted, according to Ed Crump, a reporter for ABC's Raleigh affiliate WTVD who attended the court hearing today.

Edwards  apparently managed to evade photographers on the way in and out of court this afternoon.    At previous court appearances, Edwards has used the front entrance and has made no obvious effort to avoid being photographed.

A two-time presidential candidate and the 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee, Edwards was charged in June in a six-count federal indictment alleging that he was complicit in an illegal scheme to funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars from two wealthy supporters to help support and seclude his pregnant mistress, Rielle Hunter, during the 2008 presidential campaign.    Prosecutors allege those payments were intended to influence the election and therefore violated federal campaign laws.

Edwards pleaded not guilty to all the charges and his lawyers have described the government's case as "crazy," and that prosecutors are employing a radical interpretation of election law.

In requesting the delay, the defense team argued that Edwards has been unable to participate in trial preparations in the past month, resulting in their falling behind in their case work.

The judge has asked all parties to report back to her at the end of February for an update.   The trial is now set to begin March 26, but might be subject to further delay.

 The Associated Press and WTVD's Ed Crump contributed to this report.