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Friday
Jun032011

Indicted John Edwards Insists 'I Did Not Break the Law'

John Edwards (L) exits the Federal Courthouse with his daughter Cate Edwards and speaks to a crowd of reporters in Winston Salem, North Carolina. Steve Exum/Getty Images (WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.) -- Speaking after a federal grand jury in Raleigh, N.C., handed down a six-count indictment against former senator and Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards on Friday, he says he did nothing illegal.

Edwards was indicted for allegedly using more than $900,000 in campaign funds to hide his mistress during the 2008 Democratic presidential race.

"There's no question that I've done wrong and I take full responsibility for having done wrong," said Edwards today. "And I will regret for the rest of my life the pain and the harm that I've caused to others. But I did not break the law and I never, ever thought that I was breaking the law."

Edwards faces a maximum penalty of five years in jail and or a fine of up to $250,000 for each charge, if convicted.

The charges, following a two-year investigation, include conspiracy, illegal campaign contributions and making false statements.

"This is an unprecedented prosecution, much less an unprecedented civil case," Gregory Craig, lead counsel to John Edwards, said Friday. "No one would have known or should have known or could have been expected to know that these payments would be treated or should be considered as campaign contributions and there is no way that Senator Edwards knew that fact either. He will enter a plea of not guilty, he has broken no law, and we will defend this case vigorously."

The case against North Carolina Democrat, which called on more than 100 witnesses, will seek to prove that hundreds of thousands of dollars were allegedly used illegally to seclude and support his mistress Rielle Hunter, so Edwards could continue his campaign for the presidency in 2008.

The federal investigation of Edwards began a few months after the National Enquirer had cornered him at a Beverly Hills hotel in October 2007. The supermarket tabloid began to run a series of stories alleging that an adulterous affair occurred between Edwards and Hunter, his former campaign worker.

A few weeks later, in an exclusive interview with ABC's "Nightline," Edwards finally admitted to the affair -- but denied paternity of Hunter's child. In the interview, Edwards also said that he was in the dark about the expensive scheme to keep Hunter out of the public eye.

Edwards' lawyers have argued the hundreds of thousands of dollars were gifts from friends of the former senator, who intended to keep the affair secret from his wife Elizabeth, who died of cancer in December.

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