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Federal judge pushes back start of Edwards' trial to 2012

By the CNN Wire Staff
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • John Edwards is charged with conspiracy and violating campaign conspiracy laws
  • A judge assents Thursday to his request to delay his trial, once set for October
  • Edwards had argued that he needed more time to prepare his defense

(CNN) -- The criminal trial of former presidential candidate and U.S. senator John Edwards has been delayed until January, a federal judge ruled Thursday.

The trial had been scheduled to start next month. The order authorizing the delay was signed by James Beatty, the chief judge for the U.S. District Court of the Middle District of North Carolina.

Lawyers for Edwards, who was the Democrats' 2004 vice presidential nominee alongside John Kerry, requested the delay late last month. In a court filing, Edwards said that he needed more time to prepare his defense and called the government's case against him a "novel legal theory."

In June, the Justice Department brought charges against Edwards for conspiracy, issuing false statements and violating campaign contribution laws

The alleged crimes date to Edwards' run to be his party's 2008 presidential nominee. He has pleaded not guilty.

In the filing last month requesting the delay, lawyers claimed that Edwards needed more time in part due to his position as the sole caretaker of his two youngest children, ages 11 and 13. They also noted Edwards' oldest daughter, Cate, will marry in October and has planned a two-week honeymoon.

Edwards' wife, Elizabeth, passed away in December.

"The defendant will simply not have the ability to care for his children and work with his attorneys if this case is tried at the October 2011 Criminal Term in light of the absence of his daughter (Cate)," the filing said.

The filing also cited the recent hiring of Edwards' newest attorney, Abbe Lowell, and said Edwards needed more time to prepare with counsel.

A chief issue in the upcoming trial is whether money given to support Edwards' mistress, Rielle Hunter, by the then-candidate's benefactors should have been considered campaign donations, a contention Edwards' team has disputed. They maintain the money was a gift to Hunter.

If convicted on all counts, Edwards could face up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $1.5 million.

CNN's Bill Mears contributed to this report.

 
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