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Feds seek to limit jury information in Edwards case

RALEIGH, N.C. — Prosecutors have asked a federal judge in North Carolina to bar those in the upcoming trial of former presidential candidate John Edwards from mentioning his poor health because of concern it could create sympathy among jurors.

John Edwards

Edwards’ trial was delayed in January after his lawyers said the Democrat needed treatment for a serious heart condition, the precise nature of which has not been publicly disclosed. Edwards underwent a medical procedure in February and a judge has said his condition is now manageable.

Jury selection for the trial is now scheduled to begin April 12.

The request to U.S. District Court Judge Catherine C. Eagles was among three motions filed by prosecutors late Friday.

The government also asked for an order limiting any mention of the possible prison sentence or fines Edwards faces if convicted, which prosecutors said could also create sympathy for him.

Edwards has pleaded not guilty to six felony and misdemeanor counts related to nearly $1 million provided by two wealthy political donors to help hide his pregnant mistress during his 2008 run for the White House. Edwards denies knowing about the payments, which prosecutors contend were illegal campaign donations.

The third motion seeks to bar mention of possible pending contempt charges against former Edwards’ aide Andrew Young stemming from a lawsuit over possession of a sex tape made by the candidate’s mistress, Rielle Hunter. Young, who initially claimed paternity of Edwards’ child and helped hide Hunter, is expected to be a key witness for prosecutors.

Hunter sued Young in a North Carolina court in 2010, shortly after he disclosed in a tell-all book that he had found a copy of sex tape Hunter made with Edwards. Hunter and Young recently settled that case with an agreement that requires copies of the intimate video to be destroyed.

However, Young, his wife and their lawyers still face contempt of court charges over providing copies of documents from the civil case, including a sealed deposition given by Edwards, to federal prosecutors. The Youngs’ lawyers say they were responding to a subpoena from a federal judge that put them in violation of a state judge’s order to keep the materials secret.

Young also gave contradictory testimony during the state case about just how many copies he made of the sex tape. Edwards’ lawyers could try to introduce that testimony at the criminal trial in an attempt to undercut the former aide’s credibility.

In their motion, prosecutors contend the issues raised in the civil case are not relevant to the criminal charges against Edwards and should not be introduced before the jury. The state court has also now yet ruled on whether Young should be charged with contempt.