Politico on October 17, 2011 released the following:
“Posted by Josh Gerstein
Defense attorneys for former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) are denying that there are any conflicts of interests that could preclude them from faithfully representing him in the federal prosecution he faces for allegedly receiving illegal, in-kind campaign contributions from donors who paid expenses of Edwards’s mistress and a child he fathered by her.
Edwards submitted a letter of his own to the court noting that he is an attorney, is aware that one of his new defense attorneys—Abbe Lowell—previously represented two possible witnesses in the case, and is fine with it. Lowell previously did legal work related to the same matter for former Edwards pollster and political aide Harrison Hickman, as well as Lisa Blue, the widow of Fred Baron—one of the donors who funded the mistress, Rielle Hunter.
“I have considered all the possibilities, and I do not see or believe there to be any conflict of interest or even potential conflict of interest between Mr. Lowell’s prior representations and his current representation of me,” Edwards wrote in an undated letter to Judge Catherine Eagles. “Even if this representation were a conflict of interest (which I do not believe it to be), after consultatyion with attorneys other than Mr. Lowell, I waive any such conflict.”
A court filing (posted here) by Edwards’s lawyers takes the same stance. “Mr. Edwards and his counsel have concluded that Mr. Lowell’s prior represenation of other witnesses does not create an actual or potential conflict in any way,” Edwards attorneys Lowell, Christopher Man and James Cooney III wrote.
The defense acknowledges that Lowell “put together from available sources information concerning funds Mr. Baron had given to Rielle Hunter and/or Andrew Young,” an Edwards aide who initially claimed paternity of Hunter’s child but later said Edwards was the father. Lowell also “faciliated” prosecutors interview with Hickman in the fall of 2010, the filing says. The filing also acknowledges that Lowell had direct e-mail contact with Hunter, which was part of “an attempt, after-the-fact, to determine what funds were paid and whether Ms. Blue had any financial obligations after Mr. Baron’s death.”
One well-known member of Edwards’s defense team, North Carolina attorney Wade Smith, has agreed to leave the case after prosecutors said he acknowledged in 2009 that the money paid to Hunter was a personal gift to Edwards and that Edwards was aware of the financial support.
“This was a conflict of the government’s making,” the new defense filing insists, hinting that prosecutors raised the issue to push Smith, a renowned trial attorney, off the case.
The defense also argues that the 2009 statement by Smith isn’t relevant to the charges knowingly accepted in-kind campaign donations in 2007 and 2008. The filing says Smith stepped aside so that “the truth about this conversation (if relevant)” can be demonstrated if he’s called as a witness at trial.
Prosecutors raised the possible conflicts last month in a fairly-common procedure that would likely preclude Edwards from raising the issues either at trial or on appeal. Their motion for a court inquiry into the matter also allowed them to detail in public some of the evidence and legal back-and-forth in the case. Eagles is expected to tak up the issue at a hearing in Greensboro, N.C. next week.
One side note: Edwards’s personally-signed letter to the judge twice refers to Hickman, his longtime political adviser, as “Mr. Harrison.” His full name is Robert Harrison Hickman, according to a letter he submitted saying he has no problem with Lowell representing Edwards.”
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