By Ned Barnett
GREENSBORO, North Carolina (Reuters) - A federal judge on Thursday allowed the criminal case to proceed against former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, who is accused of accepting illegal campaign contributions to hide an affair.
U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles ruled a day after hearing hours of argument in Greensboro, North Carolina, on five defense motions challenging the six-count indictment. Some of the defense arguments had merit, the judge said, but she ruled the issues should be decided by a jury.
Edwards, who has pleaded not guilty, is set to go to trial in January on charges of conspiracy, accepting illegal campaign contributions and making false statements.
At issue is the $900,000 prosecutors said was provided by two of Edwards' wealthy supporters to help him hide an affair and a child conceived with his former campaign videographer during his failed bid for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.
Edwards, a former U.S. Senator from North Carolina and John Kerry's vice presidential running mate, faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each count if convicted.
Edwards' lawyers said the gifts were intended to hide the affair from Edwards' wife and were not campaign contributions subject to campaign finance laws. In seeking to get the charges dismissed, defense lawyers also argued that the indictment was politically motivated and that, even if Edwards did all that was alleged, it did not amount to a crime.
Prosecutors said that Edwards indirectly benefited from the gifts in violation of federal contribution limits and reporting laws.
(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Greg McCune)