john edwards gi John Edwards: Judge authorizes criminal charges in Rielle Hunter caseA few years back it wasn’t Arnold Schwarzenegger, but then-presidential hopeful John Edwards, weathering a messy public cheating/love child scandal.

And now Edwards could face criminal charges for payments made to Rielle Hunter — the former campaign videographer with whom he fathered a child — if prosecutors can prove the money was used to cover-up the affair.

Here’s the quick version: Since 2009, a federal grand jury in North Carolina has been investigating payments made to Edwards’ campaign by Rachel “Bunny” Mellon. Prosecutors believe the money — $700,000 — was used to keep Hunter quiet about her affair with Edwards. Which would violate federal campaign finance laws.

Edwards, according to CNN, doesn’t want to plead guilty to a felony because he would lose his law license. Which would prohibit him from starting a public interest law firm. He’s also, according to one source, “terrified of going to jail.”

Edwards may be able to avoid jail time with a plea deal, though he would likely still lose his law license. Edwards’ wife, Elizabeth, died in December 2010 after a long struggle with cancer.

Posted by:Liz Kelly Nelson