Prosecutors made a final offer to John Edwards before he was indicted last Friday, but the former senator and presidential candidate could not accept the prospect of jail time, according to a report in The News & Observer. The deal would have avoided felony charges for Edwards, making it possible for him to keep his law license. But in exchange for pleading guilty on three misdemeanor campaign finance law violations, prosecutors wanted a sentence that would result in up to six months in prison.
Sources close to the negotiations told The News & Observer that the defense wanted to at least be able to argue in front of a judge for alternatives to prison, like a halfway house, weekend releases or home arrest.
Late Thursday night, Edwards and his legal team held a series of conference calls with prosecutors in Washington D.C.
What had started as a discussion of a felony with the possibility of no jail time had become a deal for misdemeanors but with more certainty of prison. That new twist came up relatively late in the talks.
But as Thursday turned into Friday, Edwards could not agree to silence his lawyers from making arguments to a judge about confinement.
Sources told the paper that the sides agreed to speak again Friday morning, and that the prospect of a deal was uncertain until minutes before a grand jury indicted Edwards.
Edwards now faces six counts: one count of conspiracy to violate federal campaign finance laws and to make false statements to the Federal Election Commission, four counts of accepting and receiving illegal campaign contributions from two donors and one count of concealing those illegal donations from the FEC. In a brief statement Friday, Edwards admitted that he had “done wrong” but insisted that he “did not break the law and I never ever thought that I was breaking the law.”
Eric Lach is a reporter for TPM. From 2010 to 2011, he was a news writer in charge of the website’s front page. He has previously written for The Daily, NewYorker.com, GlobalPost and other publications. He can be reached at ericl(at)talkingpointsmemo.com