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Edwards' return to public life

The former senator has been mostly out of view since his trial. That could be changing.

RALEIGH, N.C. - Former presidential contender John Edwards has reactivated his license to practice law and is setting out on the speaking circuit.

The two-time presidential candidate and former North Carolina senator is scheduled to appear June 6 at a private retreat in Orlando, Fla., for lawyer clients of the marketing firm PMP.

A records check with the N.C. State Bar shows Edwards has also reactivated his license to practice law, which had been inactive for more than a decade. The contact number listed for Edwards rings at his old Raleigh firm, where a receptionist said Edwards had not worked for many years.

Edwards has remained largely out of public view since his May 2012 acquittal on one charge of campaign-finance fraud. A federal judge declared a mistrial on five other criminal counts after jurors could not agree if Edwards illegally used campaign money to hide his pregnant mistress as he ran for president in 2008.

An itinerary for the Florida event says Edwards will speak for about 45 minutes as part of a program titled "Historic Trials of the Century." Edwards earned millions as a personal-injury lawyer before entering politics.

'More relaxed'

Messages left at PMP seeking comment about the firm's booking of Edwards received no response. A woman who answered the phone said the June event would be closed to the media.

Efforts to reach Edwards were also unsuccessful.

He said after his trial last year that he hoped to someday open an advocacy law firm to serve indigent clients and find a way to contribute to society.

Wade Smith, a Raleigh defense lawyer who served as Edwards' mentor early in his legal career, said that he saw Edwards recently and that he looked "so much better, more relaxed."

Smith said Edwards had not told him he had reactivated his law license, but he was not surprised.

"He's got so much ability and talent," Smith said. "Lawyers who saw him in front of a jury will tell you they never saw anything like him, his ability to connect. That talent is still in there, and I think he will find a space to use it."

Others' example

Since his highly publicized trial, Edwards has shunned public attention and lived quietly at his North Carolina home, a sprawling gated estate outside Chapel Hill that he shares with his two school-age children.

If he finds a way to successfully reenter public life, Edwards will follow other high-flying politicians whose careers were derailed by sex scandals only to make a comeback, including former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer and former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford. Spitzer has worked as a political commentator, and Sanford this month won a special election for a congressional seat in his home state.

After his trial ended last year, Edwards stood on the steps of the federal courthouse in Greensboro and made an emotional public apology.

"While I do not believe I did anything illegal, or ever thought I was doing anything illegal, I did an awful, awful lot that was wrong, and there is no one else responsible for my sins," Edwards said.

The six-week trial recounted the most intimate details of Edwards' affair with former campaign videographer Rielle Hunter, with whom the then-married presidential candidate fathered a daughter. At the time, Edwards' wife, Elizabeth, was batting cancer; she died in late 2010.

At issue in the criminal case was about $1 million in unreported funds secretly provided by two wealthy campaign donors used to care for Hunter during her pregnancy, moving her quietly across the country on private jets between a series of luxury resorts and homes.

Edwards, who turns 60 next month, said last year he looked forward to making a positive contribution again.

"I don't think God's through with me," he said. "I really believe he thinks there's still some good things I can do."