Edwards trial judge refuses to dismiss case

GREENSBORO, North Carolina Fri May 11, 2012 1:26pm EDT

John Edwards exits a federal courthouse next to one of his defense lawyers, Abbe Lowell (R) in Greensboro, North Carolina May 10, 2012. REUTERS/Ted Richardson

John Edwards exits a federal courthouse next to one of his defense lawyers, Abbe Lowell (R) in Greensboro, North Carolina May 10, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Ted Richardson

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GREENSBORO, North Carolina (Reuters) - The judge in the campaign finance abuse trial of former Senator John Edwards rejected his lawyers' arguments that the prosecution had failed to prove the case against the one-time presidential candidate and refused to dismiss the case.

Responding to a defense motion, U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Eagles said the court was satisfied that federal prosecutors had presented sufficient evidence on all charges to proceed with the case.

"We will let the jury decide," Eagles said in a bench ruling.

The ruling came a day after the prosecution finished presenting nearly three weeks of evidence and two dozen witnesses. Lawyers for Edwards will begin presenting the defense case on Monday.

Edwards, 58, is accused of soliciting more than $900,000 in illegal campaign contributions from two wealthy supporters in an effort to conceal his pregnant mistress from the media and voters.

The government says the candidate knew his bid for the presidency would be doomed if the affair was exposed.

Edwards faces potential prison time and a fine if convicted of any of six counts, including conspiring to solicit the money, accepting more than the $2,300 allowed from any one donor and failing to report the payments as contributions.

The defense says Edwards, who has pleaded not guilty, did not seek or receive any of the money. His lawyers argue the payments were meant to shield the affair from his cancer-stricken wife, Elizabeth, not to influence the election, and thus should not be characterized as campaign contributions.

(Reporting by Wade Rawlins; writing by Dan Burns; Editing by Cynthia Johnston)

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