GREENSBORO — John Edwards, a trial lawyer who once had a reputation for captivating an entire courtroom with his powerful and persuasive closing arguments, sat quietly in federal court on Thursday as his lawyers asked for more time to prepare for his criminal trial.
Edwards, 58, let his attorneys do his talking for the 30-minute hearing in which the judge tentatively set October as the month for trial of the campaign finance case brought last month against the former U.S. senator and 2008 presidential candidate.
Jim Cooney, a Charlotte attorney, argued for a later trial date, saying the case was complex and unusual and the sheer volume of documents collected by prosecutors would be overwhelming for his staff to quickly analyze.
Defense lawyers have received 10,000 documents from prosecutors and expect 20,000 more, including campaign email and Internal Revenue Service tax filings.
Prosecutors contend that Edwards violated campaign finance laws by secretly obtaining and using contributions from two wealthy supporters to hide his mistress and her pregnancy from the public during his unsuccessful bid for president in 2008.
The payments, which covered living, medical and other expenses for Rielle Hunter, a videographer with whom he had an extramarital affair and a child, are at the heart of the dispute. Prosecutors argue the donations were campaign contributions because they were meant to hide the affair so Edwards could keep his 2008 presidential bid alive. They also contend the contributions exceeded legal limits.
Edwards has said he did not break the law.
Legal analysts have been watching the case as one that could expand or clarify the definition of campaign contributions.
"This is a legal theory on which no one has ever been prosecuted," Cooney told N. Carlton Tilley, the judge overseeing the proceeding.
A new judge will be assigned to the case and set a more specific trial date. Tilley told the lawyers his decision Thursday would not prohibit them from broaching the topic of delay with the next judge.
"You folks have not brought a whole lot more to the table than you did last month," Tilley said, reminding the lawyers of a hearing last month in which they successfully won a delay.
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