Federal prosecutors filed motions late last week to prevent defense lawyers for 2008 Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Edwards from bringing up issues they believe would engender sympathy from jurors serving in his upcoming trial on campaign finance charges related to his affair with a campaign videographer.
Justice Department attorneys filed separate motions asking a judge to prevent the Edwards defense team from mentioning the penalties Edwards could face if he’s found guilty, his recent health issues or the fact that a witness against him was found in contempt of court over not turning over a copy of a sex tape between Edwards and his mistress Rielle Hunter.
Referencing Edwards’ health issues “would serve no purpose other than to generate sympathy for the defendant, confuse the issues before the jury, and potentially mislead the jury as to the relevant facts,” federal prosecutors wrote. Likewise, they said that referencing the possible punishment Edwards could face “may raise concerns in the mind of the jury about the appropriateness of such penalties and may improperly engender sympathy for the defendant.”
Prosecutors also want to prevent defense attorneys from raising or cross-examining former Edwards campaign aide Andrew Young and his wife over a contempt order issued in state court after they initially refused to turn over property which included what prosecutors described as a “now-infamous videotape” of Edwards and Hunter. That case has since been settled and the sex tape destroyed.
Edwards, who was indicted on six charges last June after accepting over $900,000 from a wealthy donor to help hide his affair that federal prosecutors allege counted as a campaign donation, has tried to dismiss the charges on the grounds that he would have wanted to keep his affair hidden even if he wasn’t running for office. Jury selection in the case is scheduled to begin on April 12.