Jury selection begins today in the trial of John Edwards, and if it were a crime to be a sleazeball, he'd be going away for life. But what he's actually charged with—failing to report gifts of almost $1 million, hiding them as campaign contributions, and using them to keep Rielle Hunter happy—is pretty dubious, some legal experts tell NPR. "John Edwards is a despicable and loathsome human being, but that doesn't also make him a criminal," says one Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington official.
"No campaign finance lawyer can tell you they've seen any case in which the government comes anywhere close to the extremely aggressive use they're making here," agrees one NYU law professor. The money didn't fund any campaign activities, so the case blurs the line of what is and isn't a political donation. But prosecutors think they can counter that defense with testimony from witnesses like Andrew Young, who allegedly accepted checks hidden in chocolate boxes for pretending to be Hunter's paramour.