Judge could send Edwards aide to jail for contempt

October 7, 2011 - 5:55 PM

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A North Carolina judge will decide whether to jail a former John Edwards aide for contempt in the legal fight over a purported sex tape involving the 2008 presidential candidate.

Superior Court Judge Michael R. Morgan signed an order Thursday finding probable cause for criminal contempt charges against Andrew Young and his wife, Cheri Young, as well as the couple's lawyers.

The Youngs and their lawyers may have violated a protective order by giving prosecutors confidential documents, including sealed depositions, from a lawsuit Rielle Hunter filed against them, according to the order. Hunter, who is Edwards' former mistress, lived with the Youngs while she was pregnant and at one point Andrew Young falsely claimed paternity of Edwards' child. She has sued the Youngs, claiming the sex tape is hers.

Morgan has scheduled a hearing on the contempt case for Nov. 7.

David C. Pishko, one of the lawyers defending the Youngs, said they had no choice but to turn the records over.

He said a sealed order issued by Chief U.S. District Court Judge Louise W. Flanagan during the federal investigation of Edwards directed the Youngs to turn over the documents and not to discuss the issue with anyone other than Superior Court Judge Carl R. Fox, who was then overseeing the lawsuit.

Pishko said the state judge advised them to comply with the federal judge's order, even though it potentially put them in violation of the other order.

Judge Fox has now recused himself from presiding over the contempt hearing, Pishko said, because he is likely to be called as a witness.

"We certainly did not do anything willfully to put us in violation," Pishko said. "We do not feel this rises to the level of contempt."

Federal prosecutors accuse Edwards of improperly using about $1 million from two political supporters to cover up his affair with Hunter and her pregnancy with his child. He is charged with six counts and if convicted, Edwards faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each count.

Edwards denies the charges and has asked a federal judge to throw out the case. A trial is scheduled to begin in January.

A trial in the lawsuit has been delayed until the conclusion of the criminal case against the two-time presidential candidate and former Democratic vice-presidential nominee.