No. 3: John Edwards

John Edwards campaigned for presidency on the notion of “two Americas,” became infamous for his simultaneous relationships with two women, and will soon face a jury that will assess his actions and make one of two choices: guilty or not guilty.

The former presidential hopeful was indicted in June on six felony charges related to allegations that he and his co-conspirators used almost $1 million in donations in violation of the Federal Election Campaign Act.

The gist of the prosecution’s case is this: Edwards built a public image as a family man, strolling the North Carolina shore with his children and taking his wife, Elizabeth, to Wendy’s (!) each year on their wedding anniversary. Anything that undermined that image would have a negative effect on his political standing (anything like, say, the revelation that he was having an affair with a woman employed by his campaign while his wife was dying of cancer). Therefore, gifts used to keep his affair secret from the public should be counted as political donations, which are subject to annual limits and must be reported to the Federal Election Commission.

Edwards has pleaded not guilty. His defense contends that the money used to hide and care for mistress Rielle Hunter was given as properly taxed personal gifts and used for personal gain. A trial is scheduled for January.

In related news, Elizabeth Edwards’s will was made public in January. The document, signed just a week before her death on December 7, 2010, made no mention of her estranged husband and named daughter Cate as executor of her estate and guardian of the two younger children, Emma Claire and Jack. Cate, a Washington lawyer who focuses on race- and gender-based discrimination, has emerged as the “family glue,” walking with her father into federal court and helping to raise her siblings. In October, she married college sweetheart Trevor Upham.

As for John Edwards’s romantic life, he is still in a relationship with Rielle Hunter and regularly sees her and their daughter, Frances Quinn. Hunter is embroiled in her own legal battle: A civil suit over an alleged sex tape she made with Edwards drags on.

Caroline Que is the D.C. editor for Yahoo! Local. Before joining Yahoo!, she worked at the Washington Post.

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