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John Edwards has been indicted – Here are the court filings

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Today, John Edwards was indicted in relation to financial contributions that others made towards supporting a woman he had an affair with and with whom he had a child, allegedly for purposes of keeping the affair quiet as he campaigned for president. He is alleged to have concealed the payments from campaign finance disclosure reports and to have accepted payments exceeding statutorily-permitted limits.

As with all criminal prosecutions, properly understanding such cases needs to include reviewing such court filings as the indictment or other charging document. Do not merely accept the media’s interpretation of the case, particularly when it is not clear whether the reporter has reviewed such documents or sufficiently understands them. Charging documents ordinarily refer to statutes, and it is doubtful whether all journalists read those statutes — many of which are very lengthy and complex — before filing their stories on the case.

Federal court filings are available on the PACER docketing system, which anybody may access by registering and paying under a dime per document page. In the state courts where I practice, unfortunately, only case dockets are available on the court websites for criminal cases, but not the case documents themselves.

Here are the key court filings in the case of John Edwards, whose full name is Johnny Reid Edwards: the indictment, case docket, scheduling order, and release order. The trial currently is set for July 11, 2011. I will be surprised if one or both parties do not successfully move to reschedule the trial to have more time to prepare for trial. The federal speedy trial act calls for trials to be held within seventy days of arraignment. This trial date is just thirty-eight days after the indictment date.