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Jury selection begins in Edwards trial

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GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) - Jury selection is under way in North Carolina for the criminal trial of former presidential candidate John Edwards. He sat at the defense table as more than 100 potential jurors filed into a courtroom in Greensboro.

Former U.S. Senator and presidential candidate John Edwards arrives outside federal court in Greensboro, N.C., Thursday, where jury selection is scheduled to begin for his criminal trial on alleged campaign finance violations. (Photo: Associated Press)

Edwards faces six criminal counts related to nearly $1 million in secret payments made by two campaign donors -- money that was used to hide his pregnant mistress as the married Democrat sought the White House in 2008.

The judge told prospective jurors that the case isn't about whether Edwards "was a good husband or politician." She said, "It's about whether he violated campaign finance laws."

She also advised them to put out of their minds any media coverage they had seen -- and not to tell anyone, even their families, that they had been called for the Edwards case.

Edwards has denied knowing about the money. Prosecutors will try to prove that he sought the payments and directed them to cover up his affair and to keep alive his presidential hopes.

The money at issue in the case flowed to Andrew Young, a former campaign aide who initially claimed the baby was his. Young is expected to be a key witness for the prosecution.

The mistress, Rielle Hunter, may testify as part of Edwards' defense.

Following years of adamant public denials, Edwards acknowledged paternity of Hunter's daughter in 2010.

A key question will be whether Edwards knew about the payments made on his behalf by his national campaign finance chairman, the late Texas lawyer Fred Baron, and campaign donor Rachel "Bunny" Mellon, an heiress and socialite who is now 101 years old.

Both had already given Edwards' campaign the maximum $2,300 individual contribution allowed by federal law. Edwards denies having known about the money, which paid for private jets, luxury hotels and Hunter's medical care.

Prosecutors will seek to prove he sought and directed the payments to cover up his affair, protect his public image as a "family man" and keep his presidential hopes viable.

If convicted, Edwards faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and as much as $1.5 million in fines.

 

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