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John Edwards Lawyers Ask Judge To Throw Out Criminal Charges

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JOHN EDWARDS
John Edwards exits the Federal Courthouse and speaks to a crowd of reporters on June 3, 2011 in Winston Salem, North Carolina. A federal grand jury indicted John Edwards, the former senator and presidential candidate, on charges that he used campaign contributions to hide an affair. (Photo by Steve Exum/Getty Images) | Getty
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RALEIGH, N.C. — Lawyers for John Edwards asked a federal judge on Tuesday to throw out criminal charges against the former Democratic presidential candidate.

Edwards' defense team filed five motions saying that federal prosecutors violated his rights under several constitutional amendments.

The lawyers argue that the federal indictment against him was unconstitutionally vague and that the charges were pursued by a partisan prosecutor for political gain. They also contend that even if all the facts alleged in the federal indictment were true, he still didn't commit a crime.

Edwards was charged in June with using more than $1 million in under-the-table payments from political supporters to hide his pregnant mistress Rielle Hunter during his 2008 run. He's also charged with helping to falsify campaign finance reports to cover up the payments.

Edwards has pleaded not guilty to six felony and misdemeanor counts. The trial is scheduled to start in October.

In their filing, defense lawyers for Edwards say he tried to hide his mistress not to preserve his political candidacy, but to keep his affair secret from his family.

"Mr. Edwards had a number of non-campaign-related, purely personal reasons to conceal his relationship with Ms. Hunter," the former candidate's layers say. "Like most men in his situation, he naturally wanted to shield his extramarital affair from public view to avoid hurting his wife and children and to protect his reputation."

Edwards' lawyers also contend that prosecutors misused their authority to pursue charges against Edwards and that they failed to screen the federal grand jury that issued the indictment.

"In this prosecution, a major figure in the Democratic Party had been brought down and, as it turns out, a Republican U.S. Attorney with political ambitions of his own has used this high profile case to his personal benefit," they wrote.

Former U.S. Attorney George Holding, an appointee of President George W. Bush who initiated the investigation against Edwards, was replaced by President Obama shortly after the charges were filed. Within weeks of his resignation, Holding announced that he will challenge an incumbent Democrat for Congress in 2012.

Holding said late Tuesday that even as a former prosecutor, he couldn't comment on the pending case.

"U.S. attorneys try their cases in court, not in the press," Holding said.

An after-hours message wasn't immediately returned by the spokeswoman for current U.S. Attorney Thomas Walker.

Edwards' lawyers also contend he had no fair warning that his actions might be considered illegal by elections regulators because no one has ever been previously charged in a similar case.

"By bringing this indictment, the government draws this court into uncharted territory in the difficult intersection between campaign finance regulation and the First Amendment," the lawyers say in a motion. "... In doing so, the government collapses any distinction between a person's candidacy and his private life."

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