A North Carolina judge is considering whether to hold a former aide to John Edwards in contempt in the legal fight over a purported sex tape involving the ex-U.S. senator and presidential candidate.
Superior Court Judge Michael R. Morgan signed an order Thursday finding probable cause for criminal contempt charges against Andrew Young and his wife, Cheri Young, as well as the couple's lawyers.
The Youngs and their lawyers may have violated a protective order by giving prosecutors confidential documents, including sealed depositions, from a lawsuit that Rielle Hunter filed against them, according to the order. Morgan has scheduled a hearing for Nov. 7.
The Youngs' attorney said Friday they were ordered by a federal judge to hand over the materials from the state civil case to prosecutors pursuing campaign finance charges against Edwards.
David C. Pishko, one of the lawyers defending the Youngs, said a sealed order issued by Chief U.S. District Court Judge Louise W. Flanagan during the federal investigation of Edwards directed the Youngs to turn over the documents and not to discuss the issue with anyone other than Superior Court Judge Carl R. Fox, who was then overseeing the lawsuit.
Pishko said the state judge advised them to comply with the federal judge's order, even though it potentially put them in violation of the other order.
Judge Fox has now recused himself from presiding over the contempt hearing, Pishko said, because he is likely to be called as a witness.
"We certainly did not do anything willfully to put us in violation," Pishko said. "We do not feel this rises to the level of contempt."
Federal prosecutors accuse Edwards of improperly using about $1 million from two political supporters to cover up his affair with Rielle Hunter and her pregnancy with his child. He is charged with six counts and, if convicted, faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each count.
Edwards denies the charges and has asked a federal judge to throw out the case. A trial is scheduled to begin in January.
Hunter lived with the Youngs while she was pregnant and at one point Andrew Young falsely claimed paternity of Edwards' child. She has sued the Youngs, claiming the purported sex tape is hers.
A trial in the lawsuit has been delayed until the conclusion of the criminal case against the two-time presidential candidate and former Democratic vice-presidential nominee.