Edwards, mistress may testify for defense as trial nears end
GREENSBORO - Reuters
Former U.S. Sen. John Edwards and his daughter, Cate Edwards, leave a federal courthouse after a day of testimony in his trial in Greensboro, N.C., Tuesday, May 15, 2012. AP PhotoFormer Senator John Edwards, his ex-mistress and his oldest daughter may take the witness stand today to offer a last word in his defense at his federal campaign finance trial, Edwards' lawyer said.
A final defense witness list included Edwards and Rielle Hunter, the woman with whom he had an affair and fathered a child during his 2008 presidential bid, as well as Cate Edwards, his daughter with late wife Elizabeth, said defense attorney Abbe Lowell.
Central to the Edwards' defense against charges that he solicited illegal campaign contributions to help hide then-pregnant Hunter from voters is his contention that the aim was, instead, to hide the affair from Elizabeth Edwards.
Riveting testimony was expected on what could be the final day for the defense in Greensboro, North Carolina, the state where Edwards won millions of dollars as a trial lawyer before being elected to the Senate in 1998 and then becoming a two-time presidential hopeful and the 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee.
Jurors have listened to much about Hunter's role in the sex scandal that contributed to Edwards' political downfall but have not heard from her directly during 17 days of trial testimony. Other witnesses described her quirky personality, expensive tastes and their concerns about her behavior around Edwards as he sought the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.
Jurors have seen Edwards, 58, in the courtroom each day and also watched a national TV interview in which he admitted to having an affair with Hunter but lied about fathering her baby.
On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles and the jury heard testimony focused largely on who received hundreds of thousands of dollars from two wealthy Edwards supporters.
Prosecutors say Edwards directed his aide, Andrew Young, to seek more than $900,000 from heiress Rachel "Bunny" Mellon and Texas trial lawyer Fred Baron as part of a plot to keep the married politician's affair from destroying his campaign.
Edwards insists he did not break the law. His attorneys argue he had nothing to do with the payments, which they say were meant as personal gifts intended to keep his cancer-stricken wife, Elizabeth, from finding out about the ongoing affair and Hunter's pregnancy.
Elizabeth Edwards died in 2010.
Some of the donor money was used to pay for Hunter's living and medical expenses, evidence has shown.
But a former FBI agent testifying for the defense presented a detailed financial analysis showing that Young - the key government witness against Edwards - and his wife received more than $1 million from Mellon and Baron.
Defense witnesses also spoke to key legal issues in the case, including what Edwards knew about the donor money and whether it qualifies as campaign contributions.