Defense lawyer will not help Edwards at trial

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A key member of the legal team defending John Edwards against campaign finance charges will not represent the former Democratic presidential candidate at his upcoming trial following questions about a potential conflict of interest.

A motion filed by federal prosecutors says Raleigh defense lawyer Wade Smith will withdraw. The move comes after prosecutors questioned whether Smith had a conflict of interest due to a 2009 conversation with a financial advisor for Bunny Mellon, a wealthy socialite who provided the bulk of nearly $1 million used to support Edwards' pregnant mistress, Rielle Hunter, as he ran for president in 2007.

According to the government, Smith told Mellon's advisor that Edwards knew the money was intended to help him. That appears to conflict with statements by Edwards that he knew nothing of the payments.

Edwards is charged with six felony and misdemeanor counts related to campaign finance violations. He has pleaded not guilty. A trial is scheduled to begin in January.

Smith is among the most well-known defense lawyers in North Carolina, with a list of previous clients that includes members of the Duke University lacrosse team cleared of charges they gang-raped a stripper.

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