Report: John Edwards Turned Down Plea to Three Misdemeanors

McClatchy reports on anonymously sourced accounts of the final plea negotiations between John Edwards and the Government. It's very detailed.

The essence: Edwards had a choice between a felony and the ability to argue for no jail time, or a plea to three misdemeanors and a six month sentence. If he took the latter, he couldn't argue for home detention or a halfway house instead of prison.

Because the misdemeanor deal would have precluded him from arguing for a non-jail sentence, he turned it down. The final negotiations lasted past Midnight on Thursday, and into Friday morning, just minutes before the grand jury returned the Indictment on Friday. [More...]

I tend to credit the report because that's how the feds bargain. There's bargaining as to charges, then bargaining as to sentence, and very often, in exchange for reduced charges, the Government says you have to agree not to request a departure or variance from a certain sentence or sentencing range.

McClatchy says Edwards is fully aware of the risks. He's counting on winning on either a pre-trial motion to dismiss or at a jury trial.

According to McClatchy, both the offered felony and misdemeanors involved violations of campaign finance law. The difference between them is the amount of money involved:

Violations for a crime involving $2,000 to $25,000 are generally not felonies, and the sides would have chosen lower-dollar acts as part of any plea to a misdemeanor charge.

The four charges of illegal campaign contributions in the indictment were aggregated at more than $25,000 in order to be classified as felonies.

Did Edwards make the right call? I'm going to say yes, because I don't think you can ask someone who has made a career out his ability to convince judges and juries of his position to give up his right to argue.

Also, despite the Government's pre-indictment plea deadline, I think there will be another round of negotiations after the briefs are in on Edwards' motion to dismiss, and before the Court holds a hearing or rules on the motion.

Due to grand jury secrecy rules, Team Edwards has not yet seen the grand jury transcripts. They haven't seen all the investigative reports of interviews with witnesses, or materials obtained by subpoena. Once they review, investigate and analyze those materials, they will have additional arguments to make when they file his pre-trial motions. The Government will take those arguments seriously, and may well decide it's not in its best interest to risk an adverse ruling from the Court.

Is it also possible Edwards will rue not taking the deal after he sees all the discovery? Sure. But I think he'll just adopt and hone his argument to fit the facts, whatever they turn out to be. And if he loses, at least he'll know he fought to the end and had the opportunity to make his case.

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    Your posts (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by Lil on Sun Jun 05, 2011 at 11:07:17 AM EST
    about the Edwards affair, no pun intended, has been very educational to me, a non attorney, to understand what is going on. I appreciate the updates.

    thank you (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by Jeralyn on Sun Jun 05, 2011 at 11:48:42 AM EST
    I never know if anyone really bothers to read them, since some are so long. It will get easier as more documents are available on the court's docket. So far, aside from the Indictment, we're really going off news reports.

    Anyone who does not read them, (5.00 / 4) (#10)
    by KeysDan on Sun Jun 05, 2011 at 12:14:44 PM EST
    misses an opportunity to become informed.

    I've been reading them (none / 0) (#11)
    by desmoinesdem on Sun Jun 05, 2011 at 01:17:41 PM EST
    As a non-lawyer with no experience in this field, I appreciate your perspective.

    Please do keep it up (none / 0) (#13)
    by gyrfalcon on Sun Jun 05, 2011 at 04:44:00 PM EST
    This is an incredibly important case, I think, for the whole concept of justice.

    Ditto for me! (none / 0) (#14)
    by BackFromOhio on Sun Jun 05, 2011 at 07:49:02 PM EST
    Under your theory, he is a quasi (none / 0) (#1)
    by oculus on Sat Jun 04, 2011 at 11:58:41 PM EST
    pro per--awaiting his chance to argue.

    If convicted does he lose (none / 0) (#2)
    by Militarytracy on Sun Jun 05, 2011 at 09:57:31 AM EST
    his license to practice?

    Disagreeing with Jeralyn slightly, (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by Peter G on Sun Jun 05, 2011 at 11:45:18 AM EST
    I would say disbarment for conviction of a felony may not be automatic.  Each state has its own rules; I don't know what the NC standard may be.  For purely technical offenses like a campaign finance violation, even if classified as a felony, the Disciplinary Board or the state Supreme Court, or whoever handles such matters in that state, may have discretion with regard to how severe a sanction to impose.  There would be some license-related sanction, however.

    you are right, it i is not automatic in (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by Jeralyn on Sun Jun 05, 2011 at 11:59:13 AM EST
    all states that a felony results in disbarment. I don't know about NC either, I just checked their rules and it seems to allow disbarment for any criminal conviction but I didn't see it was mandated. You can also petition for reinstatement after five years in NC.

    I'm deeply disappointed in candidate Edwards (5.00 / 2) (#9)
    by Militarytracy on Sun Jun 05, 2011 at 12:08:41 PM EST
    I want my damned money back too :)  But I always felt that lawyer Edwards did more to equalize the world if you are one of the voiceless and the powerless.  He gave rich men something to fear while they were screwing me over and that is the only equalizer I have anymore.  It is all that is left for me and mine right now.  I hope he isn't disbarred.

    I hope the same (5.00 / 2) (#12)
    by gyrfalcon on Sun Jun 05, 2011 at 04:41:54 PM EST
    There are way too many people who've forgotten his history on this stuff, or never knew it to begin with, and think he was only ever a pretty-boy short-term senator.

    You read stuff to this day about how he "adopted a populist tone" for his campaigns.  BS.  That's who he always was and his campaigns grew directly out of that.


    if convicted of (none / 0) (#3)
    by Jeralyn on Sun Jun 05, 2011 at 10:33:06 AM EST
    a felony, yes. Misdemeanors, no. (Or at least it's not automatic with misdemeanors.)

    actually, as Peter G. points out (none / 0) (#7)
    by Jeralyn on Sun Jun 05, 2011 at 11:57:20 AM EST
    it depends on the state whether disbarment is automatic for a felony conviction. In some states it is, but I'm not sure about North Carolina.

    No Case (none / 0) (#15)
    by ScottW714 on Mon Jun 06, 2011 at 02:45:05 PM EST
    The Today Show has a lawyer on explaining the case, so take it for what it's worth.

    He said the government's case is that because the funds were used to keep his campaign ongoing, the gift should be considered campaign funds.  They aren't contending the actual gift, just how it was used.

    If that's true, this is a bunch of BS.  They could argue any gift could be campaign funds.  I would imagine every dollar spend by a candidate is somehow going to further their campaign, aka career.

    If that is their stand, actually declaring the gift as campaign funds would have been OK because using them as payoff money is actually campaign related.

    Except for (none / 0) (#16)
    by jbindc on Mon Jun 06, 2011 at 03:27:21 PM EST
    Those pesky little things like maximums individuals can give to a campaign.