Possible Prison Time Scuttled an Edwards Plea Deal

In their offer, prosecutors wanted Edwards to face up to six months in prison

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John Edwards came this close to taking a plea deal instead of facing charges that he misused over $900,000 in gifts to cover up an affair during the 2008 presidential campaign. The Raleigh News and Observer and CBS affiliate WRAL News cite sources claiming that the night before Edwards was formally indicted on Friday, he was prepared to accept a deal allowing him to avoid a felony conviction. But there was one, large caveat: prosecutors wanted him to face up to six months of prison time.

Even though John Edwards was considering taking a bargain that would've been reduced to three misdemeanor charges, his lawyers were concerned that the deal wouldn't allow them enough leverage to get their client out of prison time and into a halfway house or house arrest. The former Senator was also concerned that a felony charge would strip him of his law license. So, even though negotiations went into the "late hours" on Thursday, he eventually decided to roll the dice in a defense that rests largely, as the Observer noted, on whether there was "intent to violate" campaign laws.

In 2008, when Edwards was seen as a possible Democratic nominee for president, he was also hiding an affair with his then-videographer Rielle Hunter that was later sensationally uncovered by the National Enquirer. The prosecution against Edwards will allege that the candidate used over $925,000 worth of donations from donors Rachel "Bunny" Mellon and now-deceased lawyer Fred Baron in order to hide the affair with Hunter--which violates campaign laws. In a statement after being indicted on Friday, Edwards firmly stated "I did not break the law. And I never, ever thought I was breaking the law."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.