RALEIGH, N.C. – A prosecutor will decide whether an ex-aide to John Edwards will face contempt charges related to a court fight over a video purported to show the ex-presidential candidate having sex with his then-mistress.
North Carolina Superior Court Judge Michael R. Morgan appointed the prosecutor Friday to consider criminal charges against Andrew Young, his wife and two of their lawyers.
A judge previously found probable cause for contempt charges arising from a lawsuit filed against the Youngs by Rielle Hunter, who was Edwards' mistress as he sought the White House in 2008. The state court ordered sensitive documents in the lawsuit to be kept under seal, including a lengthy deposition given by Edwards.
Young and his lawyers have acknowledged providing those documents to federal prosecutors investigating Edwards prior to his 2011 indictment, but said they did so only after receiving a subpoena signed by a federal judge. Attorneys for the Youngs said they were asked by prosecutors to keep the subpoena a secret from Hunter and her lawyers.
Young was the government's star witness at Edwards' campaign corruption trial, spending more than a week on the witness stand. Edwards was acquitted on one count and the jury deadlocked on five others.
An aide once so loyal he falsely claimed paternity of Edwards' baby with Hunter and helped hide her from the media for nearly a year, Young turned against his former boss and testified for the prosecution under an immunity agreement.
The U.S. Justice Department has not yet decided whether to retry Edwards on the unresolved counts, but any such effort would likely be hamstrung if Young is charged with felony contempt charges.
The civil case between Hunter and the Youngs was settled earlier this year with a state court order that required copies of the sex tape to be destroyed, though federal prosecutors may still have a copy. But a hearing on the contempt of court issue was delayed until after Edwards' federal trial.
Morgan's order appoints District Attorney Jim Woodall to review the case. Woodall is the lead prosecutor for a two-county district that includes Chapel Hill, where both the Youngs and Edwards live.
Woodall said he expects to make his decision within 60 days.
"I've not reviewed anything in the file at this point, because it wasn't my business until I was appointed," Woodall said. "Obviously I won't make any decision until I review the case and all the issues involved."
Hunter's lawyer, Wade Barber, declined to comment, saying his client was no longer a party in the case.
Raleigh lawyer Philip R. Isley represents Andrew Young, his wife Cheri and their lawyers Robert Elliot and David Pishko, all of whom face potential criminal charges. Isley declined to comment Friday on the issues in the case, but said his clients hope for a speedy decision.
"This is sort of the last chapter in this whole affair, and we'd like that chapter to be closed," Isley said.
Follow AP writer Michael Biesecker at twitter.com/mbieseck