The U.S. Justice Department has given prosecutors the go-ahead to seek an indictment against former U.S. senator and two-time presidential candidate John Edwards, The Raleigh News & Observer has learned.
Sources close to the federal investigation of Edwards say that prosecutors will start presenting their case to a federal grand jury in Raleigh on Tuesday, and that Edwards almost certainly will be indicted unless he accepts a plea agreement.
Edwards, 57, faces scrutiny over the way 2008 presidential campaign money was used. Specifically, investigators want to know whether the Edwards campaign used donations to help shield the candidate's mistress, Rielle Hunter, from the news media.
Hunter was an aide in Edwards' 2008 presidential campaign. Edwards has denied any misuse of campaign funds.
While Edwards has denied misusing funds, a former top aide, Andrew Young, told a federal grand jury during nine hours of testimony in 2009 that Edwards had directed a well-funded campaign to keep the media away from Hunter -- and hide the fact that Hunter had given birth to a daughter.
Young initially had claimed he was father of Hunter's child, but Edwards later admitted that he fathered the girl.
Young also has written a book on the matter.
A potential prosecution of Edwards would center on donations from two key supporters. One of those donors was Fred Baron, who was finance chairman of Edwards' 2008 presidential campaign but died later that year.
According to ABC News, Baron admitted before his death that he paid money to hide Hunter from the media. But Baron also said Edwards did not know of the payments.
Prosecutors also have questions about millions of dollars' worth of donations from Rachel "Bunny" Mellon to a nonprofit group called The Alliance for a New America, an organization that supported Edwards' campaign.
Edwards' wife, Elizabeth, died last year of cancer.
(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, www.scrippsnews.com.)