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Judge orders ex-John Edwards aide to turn over book drafts in trial

Former presidential candidate John Edwards, right, leaves federal court with attorney Jim Cooney following an appearance in Greensboro, N.C., Thursday, July 14, 2011.AP

The judge overseeing John Edwards' criminal trial has ordered a former speech writer for the two-time presidential candidate to turn over any drafts of books or articles involving him and other key players in his case.

Edwards' lawyers are seeking an extensive list of documents from Wendy Button, a 2008 campaign staffer expected to testify.

U.S. District Court Judge Catherine C. Eagles ruled Friday that Button did not have to turn over all communications with third parties including the media regarding Edwards, his former mistress Rielle Hunter or his ex-aide Andrew Young from 2009 to the present.

Button also doesn't have to produce correspondence or proposals involving books and articles covering information about or her dealings with Edwards, his late wife Elizabeth, Andrew and Cheri Young, or two wealthy supporters at the core of the court case -- the late Texas lawyer Fred Baron, and campaign donor Rachel "Bunny" Mellon.

Nor does Button have to turn over postings on Facebook or other social media sites regarding Edwards during that time period. The judge put off ruling on the remainder of Button's motion to quash the subpoena.

The ruling was first reported Sunday night by The News & Observer in Raleigh.

Eagles had said Wednesday that another judge would have to decide the issue because her husband is a former law partner of one of the lawyers representing Button, presenting a potential conflict.

In court documents filed Thursday, Eagles reversed course, canceling Friday's hearing and ordering the lawyers involved in the issue to file written briefs with the court.

Opening statements in Edwards' trial over campaign finance violations begin Monday.

A longtime speech writer for Edwards, Button helped draft the 2009 statement in which the one-term North Carolina senator and 2004 Democratic vice-presidential nominee admitted his affair with Hunter, a campaign videographer with whom he fathered a daughter as he sought the White House. Edwards repeatedly denied the affair following a December 2007 tabloid report about Hunter's pregnancy.

Button said she had no knowledge of the affair or resulting cover-up during the 2008 campaign, which imploded under the weight of the allegations. But she has written about her later discussions with Edwards, counseling him on how to admit he lied to the American people.

Her name is listed as a potential witness on lists filed by both prosecutors and the defense. But the April 12 subpoena from Edwards' lawyers indicates they see the former speech writer as a potentially hostile witness.

Button, who has retained at least three lawyers, filed a motion last week seeking to quash the subpoena as "unreasonable and oppressive."