Ex-U.S. Senator Edwards Healthy Enough for Trial Next Month, Judge Rules

Former U.S. Senator John Edwards was cleared to go on trial next month for campaign-finance law violations as a judge said his medical condition is manageable.

Jury selection in the case is scheduled to begin on April 18, U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles said at a hearing today in Greensboro, North Carolina. Opening statements would begin April 23. The trial is expected to last six weeks.

Edwards, 58, was granted a delay in January because of a heart condition. That is now in the management stage, Eagles said, citing a letter from Edwards’s doctor.

The former presidential candidate, a Democrat from North Carolina, is charged with violating campaign-finance laws to conceal his relationship with filmmaker Rielle Hunter. Edwards, who was married at the time, allegedly used more than $925,000 in contributions to conceal the affair.

Federal law prohibits the use of campaign funds for personal expenses such as rent and vacations. Edwards, who has pleaded not guilty, argues that the contributions in dispute were gifts from his pre-existing friendships with multimillionaire heiress Rachel “Bunny” Mellon and Dallas- based trial lawyer Fred Baron, who died in October 2008.

‘The Politician’

In court papers filed last month, Edwards asked Eagles to bar the government from introducing at the trial statements made by Mellon and Baron. The statements will probably be referenced in testimony from Andrew Young, Edwards’s former aide whose 2010 book “The Politician” details the affair, Edwards said in court papers.

“Andrew Young is a cooperating witness with the government under a letter of immunity,” Edwards said in the filing. “Ms. Mellon is over 101 years old and physically unable to attend a trial. Mr. Baron is dead. Ms. Hunter has not been charged with any wrongdoing by the government.”

Eagles reserved ruling on the request today.

“It sounds like a lot of these statements will be admissible at trial,” Eagles said.

The case is U.S. v. Edwards, 1:11-cr-00161, U.S. District Court, Middle District of North Carolina (Greensboro).

To contact the reporters on this story: Sophia Pearson in Philadelphia at spearson3@bloomberg.net; John Peragine in Greensboro, North Carolina, at drjohnnd@hotmail.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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