Former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards reportedly will be indicted today on criminal charges that he broke campaign finance laws to cover up his extramarital affair with Rielle Hunter.

ABC News, citing unnamed sources, says the indictment will be handed down in Raleigh today unless a plea deal is reached. A “person with knowledge of the investigation” says Edwards’ lawyer, Gregory Craig, planned to be in North Carolina today.

CNN says Edwards is “expected to be indicted…barring any last-minute developments.”

USA TODAY’s Fredreka Schouten and Kevin Johnson look at the legal issues surrounding the Edwards case in this story.

At issue are hundreds of thousands of dollars given to Hunter and Andrew Young by Edwards’ supporters, Rachel “Bunny” Mellon and Fred Baron, to keep the pair in hiding. Prosecutors argue that the money amounted to illegal campaign contributions because they allowed Edwards to continue with his 2008 presidential bid.

Craig said in a statement last month that the federal government’s case against Edwards, the 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee, is “wrong on the facts and wrong on the law.”

Much of the case has centered on testimony from Young, who claimed in 2007 that he was the father of Hunter’s daughter in order to help his boss.

Edwards initially denied the affair but admitted the relationship with Hunter, a campaign videographer, in 2008. At the time, he denied he was the father of Hunter’s daughter, Frances Quinn. Edwards did not admit paternity until 2010, the day before Young’s memoir was released.

If Edwards pleads guilty or no contest to a criminal offense, his law license could be in jeopardy and he would have to appear before the state bar. Before his entry into politics, Edwards won million-dollar verdicts for his clients and was one of North Carolina’s most successful trial lawyers.

The saga over Edwards’ affair has been a sordid chapter in the life of a one-time Democratic star. After years of winning over juries in medical malpractice and product liability cases, Edwards appealed to voters and defeated incumbent Republican Lauch Faircloth in 1998 for a U.S. Senate seat.

Edwards ran for president in 2004, emphasizing “two Americas” for the rich and the poor, and eventually became John Kerry’s running mate. In 2008, staking his campaign on opposition to the Iraq war and in support of universal health care, Edwards was eclipsed in the Democratic primaries by Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Elizabeth Edwards died in December after a six-year battle with cancer. At the time, she and John Edwards were legally separated.

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