Warm Southern Breeze

"… there is no such thing as nothing."

John Edwards, and How to Indict the Ham Sandwich

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Sunday, June 5, 2011

John Edwards official Senate photo portrait.

John Edwards, U.S. Senator, North Carolina (D), official portrait

In legal circles – in which I do not travel – there is a common saying (one which can be found on Wikipedia – the so-called “fount of all knowledge” – please excuse me while I find the vomitorium) – which says  “A good prosecutor could get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich.” 

It is that aphorism – an aphorism, which by the way, is defined as “a terse saying embodying a general truth, or astute observation” – upon which I begin this entry.

John Edwards, a former U.S. senator from North Carolina, Democrat, and former presidential candidate, was discovered to have fathered a child out of wedlock while he was married to his now-late former wife Elizabeth, whom was also an attorney, and whom died of a recurrence of cancer.

Fearing public censure, “handlers” for former Senator Edwards’ presidential campaign sought to hide the fact of his out-of-wedlock paternity from the general public. In the course of that campaign it is alleged that campaign contributions were used as “hush money” to support the child and mother. The money was not a bribe, but rather as a form of support. Indeed, bribery may be defined as an exchange of any thing of value “with a view to corrupting the behavior of a person, especially in that person’s performance,” and may be further considered as an “to influence or  corrupt.” Such actions – the act of bribery – are typically to encourage one to perform an act that is dishonest and illegal.

It should be borne in mind that dishonesty itself is not an illegal act. It is only in certain circumstances and situations that dishonesty is illegal. For example, to purposely say or claim that you used three, instead of four eggs in a recipe, is not criminal. However, upon taking an oath to tell the truth, and then purposely asserting that three, rather than four, eggs were used in a recipe could be considered a crime, because of the affiant’s acceptance of an oath to tell the truth. To accept an oath to be truthful or honest, and then after accepting the oath, to purposely deceive is typically considered a criminal act, the severity of punishment for which depends upon the severity of the case involved.

Now, returning to Edwards’ situation, we have heard in the news that federal prosecutors have indicted former Senator Edwards, and charged him with six violations of United States Code Title 18, Section 371 (Conspiracy), United States Code Title 2, Section 441 (Illegal Campaign Contributions), United States Code 18, Section 1001 (False Statements).

What is particularly interesting (if not disturbing), is that Edwards’ statements of denial of knowledge of paternity were never made under oath, and that neither federal nor state law prohibit using campaign contributions, as are alleged by prosecutors.

Edwards’ federal indictments may be found here: http://media.npr.org/documents/2011/june/edwards.pdf

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