In a federal criminal case that has the markings of sex, money, betrayal and a handsome politician’s fall from grace, former presidential candidate John Edwards’ trial for alleged campaign finance violations opens Monday in Greensboro, N.C.

Edwards is accused of accepting more than $900,000 in illegal contributions during his 2008 bid for the Democratic presidential nomination to pay the expenses of his mistress and hide the extramarital affair that, if revealed to voters, almost certainly would have derailed his campaign and shattered his public image as a devoted family man.

The former senator from North Carolina has pleaded not guilty to six criminal counts related to campaign finance violations. If convicted of all charges, Edwards faces up to 30 years in prison and $1.5 million in fines. Opening arguments are scheduled to begin Monday morning and the much-anticipated trial is expected to last at least six weeks.

Prosecutors contend that bills paid by two Edwards benefactors, Rachel “Bunny’’ Mellon, a banking heiress from Virginia, and the late Fred Baron, a Texas lawyer, actually were unreported campaign contributions designed to cover up his affair with Rielle Hunter, a campaign videographer who gave birth to his daughter.
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