FILE - In this June 3, 2011 file photo, John Edwards leaves the Federal Building in Winston-Salem, N.C. After years of investigation, denials and delays, jury selection is set to begin Thursday, April 12, 2012 for the criminal trial of the former presidential candidate in Greensboro, N.C. Edwards faces six criminal counts related to nearly $1 million in secret payments made by two campaign donors to help hide the married Democrat�s pregnant mistress as he sought the White House in 2008. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton, File)
GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — After years of investigation, denials and delays, jury selection was set to begin Thursday for the criminal trial of former presidential candidate John Edwards.
Edwards was expected inside a Greensboro, N.C., courtroom to face six criminal counts related to nearly $1 million in secret payments made by two campaign donors to help hide the married Democrat's pregnant mistress as he sought the White House in 2008.
The money flowed to Andrew Young, a former campaign aide who initially claimed the baby was his. Young is expected to be a key witness for the prosecution. The mistress, Rielle Hunter, may testify as part of Edwards' defense.
Following years of adamant public denials, Edwards acknowledged paternity of Hunter's daughter in 2010.
The trial is expected to last about six weeks.
A key issue will be whether Edwards knew about the payments made on his behalf by his national campaign finance chairman, the late Texas lawyer Fred Baron, and campaign donor Rachel "Bunny" Mellon, an heiress and socialite who is now 101 years old. Both had already given Edwards' campaign the maximum $2,300 individual contribution allowed by federal law.
Edwards denies having known about the money, which paid for private jets, luxury hotels and Hunter's medical care. Prosecutors will seek to prove he sought and directed the payments to cover up his affair, protect his public image as a "family man" and keep his presidential hopes viable.
If convicted, Edwards faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and as much as $1.5 million in fines.