Former U.S. senator and presidential candidate John Edwards has been indicted on charges he violated campaign finance laws by using political donations to hide an extramarital affair.
The indictment was filed Friday in Edwards' home state of North Carolina. He was charged on six counts - one count of conspiracy, four counts of illegal campaign contributions and one count of false statements.
The U.S. Justice Department says Edwards accepted more than $900,000 in an effort to conceal facts from the public that he believed would harm his 2008 White House bid.
Edwards, a Democrat, appeared in a U.S. District Court Friday in Winston Salem, North Carolina. He pleaded not guilty and was allowed to leave without posting bail.
In a brief press appearance later, Edwards said there is no question he has done wrong. He said he did not break the law, however, and never thought he was breaking the law.
If convicted, he faces a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each of the six counts.
The indictment claims Edwards knew the public revelation of the extramarital affair and resulting pregnancy would undermine his image and force his campaign to divert resources to respond to criticism and media scrutiny.
The case centers on money paid to Edwards' mistress, Rielle Hunter, and a former aide, Andrew Young, who previously claimed paternity of the politician's daughter with Hunter.
The money came from two wealthy supporters, and prosecutors say the funds should have been reported as campaign donations. But Edwards' lawyers say the money constituted gifts intended to keep the affair secret from Edwards' wife, Elizabeth, who died last year after a long battle with cancer.
The 58-year-old Edwards resides in North Carolina and was elected to the U.S. Senate from that state in 1998.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.