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Edwards offered misdemeanor plea deal before indictment, according to reports

John Edwards
Former presidential candidate John Edwards is seen following a federal court appearance in Winston-Salem, N.C., Friday, June 3, 2011. A grand jury indicted the two-time presidential candidate on Friday, accusing him of trying to protect his political ambitions by soliciting and secretly spending more than $925,000 to hide his mistress and their baby from the public. Edwards plead not guilty. AP Photo/Gerry Broome

John Edwards was on the verge of accepting a plea deal, according to reports, from federal prosecutors who last week charged him of using more than $900,000 in campaign contributions to keep his pregnant mistress out of sight during his 2008 run for president.

Just before Edwards was indicted Friday, prosecutors gave him a chance to plead guilty to just three misdemeanor charges, the Raleigh News and Observer reports, citing multiple unnamed sources familiar with the investigation. The deal likely would have allowed the former Democratic vice presidential nominee to keep his law license, but he would have had to serve up to six months in prison.

CBS affiliateWRAL News reported the same details of plea deal negotiations. The deal reportedly fell through because Edwards and his team wanted at least a chance to argue before a judge for an alternative to prison time, such as home arrest.

For most of the negotiations, prosecutors reportedly wanted Edwards to admit to at least one felony, which may or may not have included prison time. Edwards, however, reportedly does not believe he committed a felony.

CBS News chief legal correspondent Jan Crawford said last week that Edwards' decision to pass on a plea deal "absolutely" means his defense team is confident in their case.

"You heard Greg Craig, his lawyer, say, 'This is unprecedented, this has never been pursued by the prosecution,'" said Crawford. "So they're going to say, 'Listen, this case should not be brought trial.'"

Crawford said Edwards, charged with six different counts, could face jail time but stressed, "This isn't an easy case for the prosecution."

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