By MICHAEL BIESECKER, Associated Press
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The sex tape of John Edwards and his mistress is headed to the shredder, but a long list of criminal charges still hangs over the former presidential candidate over the extramarital affair that ended his political career.
Rielle Hunter sued former Edwards aide Andrew Young and his wife in 2010 over the tape of "a personal and private nature" and other intimate items the couple said she left in a box of trash. Hunter lived with the Youngs while she was pregnant with Edwards' baby, hiding out as the former North Carolina senator ran for the White House. Young, a longtime aide to Edwards, initially said he was the father.
Both sides claimed to be getting what they wanted from a legal settlement signed Thursday to end a two-year legal battle that has provided fees to at least 15 lawyers between the two sides.
The Youngs agreed to give up their claim of ownership to the tape and other property, which has been locked in the vault of a North Carolina courthouse for the last two years.
"We are very pleased that this settlement achieved all that she had ever hoped to achieve with this lawsuit," said Allison Van Laningham, one of Hunter's lawyers.
The order also mandates that the tape will be destroyed within 30 days, however, ensuring that Hunter won't have possession of it either.
"There were no 'winners' as such, in that each side had returned back to it that which it believed was its own property, although it was mutually agreed that certain materials should, per the court's order, be destroyed," said David Pishko, a lawyer for the Youngs.
Pishko also said there is nothing in the settlement to prevent Andrew Young from testifying against his former boss at his upcoming criminal trial, the start of which has been delayed while Edwards seeks treatment for a heart condition.
Edwards was indicted in June on six felony and misdemeanor counts related to campaign finance violations. Federal prosecutors accuse Edwards of knowing about the nearly $1 million provided by two wealthy political supporters used to pay for luxury hotels, private jets, medical bills and other costs associated with hiding his pregnant mistress from the world.
Much of that money flowed to Young, who with his wife, Cheri, traveled and helped care for Hunter as Edwards ran for president. He is expected to be a star witness for the prosecution.
"It has been suggested that one purpose of this lawsuit was an effort to intimidate and harass Andrew and Cheri Young who are expected to be witnesses in the criminal prosecution of Ms. Hunter's paramour, John Edwards," Pishko said. "If that was in fact the case, it has failed miserably."
As part of Thursday's settlement with Hunter, the Youngs also agreed not to talk publicly about the tape. Andrew Young previously has said the tape shows Edwards engaging in a sex act with a pregnant woman. Hunter has said in court filings the tape is hers.
The settlement won't impede the making of a proposed movie based on the scandal. Young has sold the screen rights to his story to a group that includes the Oscar-winning writer and producer Aaron Sorkin.
The settlement also ordains that Hunter will also regain possession of other items the Youngs had, including a photo of Hunter and pictures of her with her child. There is also a tape showing the birth of Frances Quinn Hunter, who turns 4 years old Monday.
But the wording of the settlement also raises doubt that every copy of the sex tape featuring Edwards and Hunter will actually be destroyed.
The Youngs and two of their lawyers still face contempt of court case for providing copies of items that had been under seal in the state civil case to federal prosecutors. The Youngs' lawyers have said they turned over the items in response to a grand jury subpoena.
Young has also acknowledged meeting with federal investigators before he was ordered to hand over all copies of the sex tape in his possession to the state court.
"The Youngs shall make a good faith effort to have any copies of the video currently in the possession of the United States Government destroyed," the settlement order says.
Federal prosecutors in the Edwards case have not disclosed in pretrial hearings whether they have a copy of the tape.
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