John Edwards

Jurors end deliberations Friday in John Edwards’ campaign corruption trial; will resume Monday


GREENSBORO, North Carolina (AP) — Jurors in the campaign corruption trial of former presidential candidate John Edwards are taking a break for the weekend and will reconvene on Monday.

Jurors began talking about the case Friday after hearing 17 days of testimony about money from wealthy donors that was used to hide Edwards’ pregnant mistress during his 2008 White House bid. Much of the testimony focused on the details of the lurid sex scandal between the Democratic candidate, his mistress Rielle Hunter and his once-trusted aide Andrew Young, who initially claimed he was the father of his boss’s baby.

They also reviewed phone and financial records from a period of about two years.

Edwards, a former North Carolina senator, is charged with six criminal counts including conspiracy to violate the Federal Election Campaign Act, accepting contributions that exceeded campaign finance limits, and causing his campaign to file a false financial disclosure report. The 58-year-old faces up to 30 years in prison and $1.5 million in fines if convicted of all charges.

Jurors asked for eight exhibits and all of the notes from a wealthy heiress who provided about half of the money at issue. They also wanted a transcript of the heiress’ lawyer’s testimony, but the judge told them to rely on their memory. They said they need markers and a board to write on, too.

Jurors will have to weigh whether to believe Edwards, who argued that he didn’t knowingly break the law, or his aide, Andrew Young, who said Edwards recruited him to solicit secret donations in excess of the legal limit for campaign contributions, then $2,300.

The choice before them comes down to picking which liar to believe.

Young, the prosecution’s star witness, falsely claimed paternity of his boss’s baby in December 2007, after tabloid reporters tracked a visibly pregnant Hunter to a doctor’s appointment.

Edwards repeatedly denied having a relationship with Hunter, only to go on national television in August 2008, months after he had dropped out of the presidential race due to losses in early primaries, to admit having a brief affair with Hunter but adding that it was physically impossible he was the father of her baby girl. In fact, his relationship with Hunter had lasted more than a year. A recording of that interview was played for the jury last week as the prosecution rested its case.

The bulk of the alleged illegal campaign contributions flowed to Young, including $725,000 in checks from heiress Rachel “Bunny” Mellon, who is now 101 years old. Young spent some of the money to care for Hunter, but financial records introduced at the trial showed the aide siphoned off most of the money to help build his family’s $1.6 million dream home near Chapel Hill.

Another $400,000 in cash, luxury hotels, private jets rides and a $20,000-a-month rental mansion in Santa Barbara, California, were also provided by wealthy Texas lawyer Fred Baron to help cover up the affair. Baron served as Edwards’ campaign finance chairman.

Prosecutors say Edwards knew about the money and directed the cover-up, showing the jury phone records indicating he was in constant contact with Hunter and Young while they were in hiding.

The defense countered that it is Young who should be on trial, not Edwards, accusing the aide of using Edwards’ name without his knowledge to bamboozle Mellon out of hundreds of thousands of dollars for his personal use. Young received immunity from prosecutors.

During closing arguments Thursday, lead defense lawyer Abbe Lowell admitted that Edwards had lied to his wife and the American people. But his client didn’t violate federal campaign finance regulations, Lowell said.

“This is a case that should define the difference between a wrong and a crime … between a sin and a felony,” Lowell told the jury. “John Edwards has confessed his sins. He will serve a life sentence for those. But he has pleaded not guilty to
violating the law.”

Associated Press writer Allen Reed contributed to this report.

Source: AP

Copyright 2012 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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