COMMENTARY | It was announced Friday that former presidential candidate John Edwards had been indicted by a grand jury on six counts for misuse of campaign funds that he received concerning his affair with Rielle Hunter, conspiracy, and issuing false statements, according to CNN.
Given this possibility has been in the news for quite some time, it isn’t overly shocking to see it come to fruition. I think the bigger shock at hand is the absolute 180 degrees Edwards has turned from his oft-described image of the well-to-do family man that he used as a backbone for his presidential campaign. The fact that, at the time, his wife had cancer actually enhanced his image. I don’t mean that to sound disrespectful, but it really did. At the time, it appeared as if he was doing the honorable thing in sticking by his ailing wife, though time has proved otherwise.
Another interesting aspect is the basis of the whole case: Whether or not the money given to Hunter was considered campaign money is the main case for debate. Edwards’ lawyers are still holding to the idea that this money was not considered campaign contributions and therefore was not used inappropriately. In the end, it just boils down to the defendant claiming “not guilty” while the prosecutors claim “guilty.”
What’s difficult for Edwards is the scenario. No matter whether the money was legitimate or not, the whole scenario of it concerning his affair will make him bad guy number one either way. Essentially, even if the money is deemed legitimate, the public opinion is stacked against him. That’s hardly the public’s problem, however.
Lastly, Edwards was a golden child of the Democratic Party. He was the “nice guy” on the campaign. I was shocked at the severity of what Edwards is dealing with. The numbers aren’t pretty, according to CNN: up to 30 years in prison and up to $1.5 million in fines. I know better than to think he’ll walk away with maximum penalties, but it’s a lot more serious than I had initially thought.
However, according to the New York Times, Edwards’ choice of avoiding a plea agreement and the acceptance of a public trial could lead to a long, messy, and drawn out case. Conversely, it could lead to his acquittal. If he and his lawyers truly believe he is innocent of the charges, then it’s probably the best course of action. We’ll see.